WordPress is the most popular website platform, while SquareSpace and Wix seem to be sponsoring ads everywhere. All three can get you a great website, but there are some clear differences you should know about before you pick one.
I don’t want to hide my bias, here. I work almost exclusively with WordPress. However, I don’t necessarily think every website needs to use it. Here’s how I generally advise people trying to figure out which is best for them.
Who Should Use SquareSpace or Wix
DIYers who just want to get a website online quickly and cheaply. SquareSpace and Wix are built around no-code templates. (A template is basically a collection of color, font, typography, and layout choices that apply to all the elements of your website.) So all you have to do is pick a starting template, add a logo, type some sentences, tweak a few elements, and hit publish—and everything looks OK. In fact, it can look truly great if you have some design skills.
WordPress themes work similarly, especially with modern block themes or a page builder like Elementor. But honestly it’s easier to get a good result with SquareSpace or Wix. I usually advise people to try SquareSpace, first, and switch to WordPress only if they don’t like SquareSpace or can’t get what they want with it.
Designers who are not working with a developer. SquareSpace and Wix give you lots of front-end design tools, which makes them well-suited to designers who are only concerned with the front end—the visual look and feel and user experience. In fact I know a couple of really talented designers who build websites on SquareSpace because they can implement their designs without working with a developer. And it seems to work just fine for them and for their clients.
As long as design is your priority, SquareSpace and Wix are just fine. But if SEO is a key part of your marketing strategy or you want your website to do more than just the basics, you will probably need a different tool—like WordPress.
Who Should Use WordPress
DIYers, designers, and developers who want a website to do more than just the basics. Websites can include all kinds of things besides text and pictures. The most common are probably contact forms and products for sale. Other things a website could have include reviews, results, events, courses, a project tracker, a directory, classified listings, a client portal, a jobs board, calculators, communication tools, document assembly tools, maps, etc.
To do most of those things you must be able to add to or modify the code of your website. With WordPress you can do this with themes, plugins, or more extensive customizations. WordPress is literally built to be customized.
For example, I built all of these things by extending existing WordPress themes and plugins or coding my own: Client Power Tools, City of Skate’s skatepark directory and voter guide, Cooper Law’s intake workflow, the Girl Skate Cos. directory, custom functionality for The Law Practice Exchange’s law-firm marketplace, the Minnesota Black-Owned Business Directory, and Lawyerist’s product review portal and Small Firm Scorecard. I couldn’t have built any of them on SquareSpace or Wix.
SquareSpace and Wix have added a few advanced features, like forms, stores, events, and member areas, and you can of course embed third-party options. They just aren’t as powerful or flexible as the many options available for WordPress.
Anyone with an SEO-focused marketing strategy. For advanced search-engine optimization there is just no comparison. The flexibility you get with WordPress and the sophisticated SEO tools available mean you can control every aspect of how your website appears to search engines: content optimization, local SEO, semantic markup, page speed, etc. And there are so many high-quality SEO plugins available that help you with all of the above.
SquareSpace and Wix have updated their SEO game a bit recently, but WordPress still has considerably more going for it. That’s why if you hire an SEO consultant to build a website for you they will almost certainly use WordPress (and if they don’t you should probably find a different SEO consultant).
- If your plans for your website are pretty simple, try SquareSpace or Wix first.
- If your plans for your website are more complex, use WordPress.
To get started with SquareSpace or Wix, all you need to do it go sign up for an account on their website. To get started with WordPress, you need to find a designer or developer who builds on WordPress (like me!), or find a WordPress host.