Battle of the Website Builders: Wix vs Squarespace (2017)
There’s no denying the power a great website can have for business. It’s become essential that every company have one, and not just any ol’ website – it needs to be unique, branded, search engine optimized, and tailored to convert your ideal customer.
The real problem with websites is that there are dozens of platforms available to design and develop your site on. Even though WordPress is our development platform of choice, we’re open minded enough to realize that it’s not everyone’s top pick. Some people want to create their site on one of the many website builders available. So in the interest of playing fair, we dove in and did a side-by-side comparison of two of the most popular website builders – Wix and Squarespace.
Why compare Wix and Squarespace?
Wix and Squarespace are often compared to each other because they’re both considered easy to use, they’re both website builders, and they both charge monthly subscription-based hosting fees for similar services. Website builders allow customers to build a website with no manual code editing. (Think drag and drop online web design.) From the outside, it may seem like their only difference is in price (and name) but when broken down, there’s a lot differentiating these two from each other and the competition.
Website Design & Site Builders Matter
When choosing the right platform to create your site on, the question of “how to create a website” on the platform is one of the most important determining factors you should consider. Do you already have an idea of what you want your site to look like? Can you create it yourself or do you need to hire a professional? What functionality do you need to create your ideal website? (We’ll dive more into functionality options in the next section, but it’s good to have it in mind now.) Here’s how Wix and Squarespace website builders stack up.
The Website Builders
Both Wix and Squarespace offer drag-and-drop website design editors and pre-made themes (or templates). Once you sign up for either service, you’ll be prompted to choose one of their themes as the basis for your own site. You’ll use the editor to plug your own content into the theme to replace any temporary content that comes built into it. Unfortunately, this is where their similarities end.
Wix’s website says they have over 500 pre-designed themes to choose from whereas Squarespace has only 40 or so themes to choose from. This drastic difference may be because Wix only allows its users to access the drag-and-drop editor, so you’ll appreciate a larger variety of options to choose from. Wix’s “no code” web design style could be a good thing if the thought of using HTML, CSS or any code to edit your site has you running, but it also limits you to only the functionality the Wix Editor and market already have built into them.
Squarespace offers a drag-and-drop editor and the ability to customize the HTML and CSS on most of the themes. This means you can create a unique website but you need to know HTML/CSS or hire a Squarespace designer to do it for you. (Again, you do not have to customize the HTML/CSS to design your site on Squarespace, it’s just an additional option.)
We’ve also been told from past clients and the Interwebs, that Wix’s editor is a bit easier and quicker to pick up than Squarespace. This is a completely opinion-based statement, so take it with a grain of salt and don’t let that put you off from a potentially more functional platform.
Like we said before, Wix offers over 500 pre-designed themes to choose from and Squarespace offers a little over 40. How professional or amazing the themes are is based on opinion, so we won’t get into that here. We will mention that with Wix themes, what you see is mostly what you get. There is some more functionality offered through apps on their Wix App Marketplace, but the design of the theme will remain all but unchanged once you put your content in. Squarespace offers fewer themes, but they also offer HTML and CSS customization.
The biggest difference when comparing Wix and Squarespace designs come when you want to change your theme. Wix’s website states that once you choose your theme, it is not possible to change to another theme. If you no longer want that design, you must make a new website (including a new Wix domain) and start from scratch.
Squarespace is less cut and dry. They do offer the ability to change your theme at any time, but they also warn users that doing so may break image links and content because the two themes may not line up the same. This is common enough with any platform you choose to create a website on, but don’t be too surprised if you need to do more fiddling on your site once you switch themes.
Both Wix and Squarespace themes are inherently mobile-friendly and both websites suggest you check your mobile site on multiple devices, just in case. Wix offers an additional feature, however, which allows you to fully customize (via drag-and-drop) how your mobile site looks in their Wix Mobile Editor. That gives you more control of the end design and a way to change thing up if something doesn’t look as stunning in the mobile mode as it does in desktop mode.
The ease of website building editors are important, but sometimes pre-designed themes don’t offer all the functionality you want your site to have. Examples of additional functionality may be as simple as connecting your website to an email marketing service (like MailChimp or Convertkit) or creating membership-level access to your content. E-commerce is another important functionality to consider, but we’ll talk more in depth about that in the next section.
Plugins & Apps
Plugins and Apps allow you to have extra functionality or third-party services on your site without having to do much if any, coding. Wix offers an App Market on their website where you can browse apps by category or type in the specific feature or service you’re looking for. Many apps in the App Market are developed by the Wix team and are subject to be created, supported or canceled at Wix’s discretion. Any third-party created apps are assumed to be supported by the companies that created them. Most apps are free to add to your site but some require you to be a Wix premium member (paid) and others may require you to pay for a membership or subscription to a third-party service.
Squarespace doesn’t have a marketplace on their main website. They have what they call “Squarespace Integrations” (a.k.a. plugins) built into the editing platform. These integrations allow you to add extended functionality and third-party services to your website. Plugins are developed by Squarespace and by outside companies, but only plugins developed by Squarespace are supported by their customer service. Outside companies are responsible for supporting their plugins at their own discretion (often at an additional fee).
Forums & Live Chat Features
Many companies or websites find it vital to have Live Chat support capabilities or at least an area where users can interact with each other in a forum. Often times, website visitors look for these features when comparing you to the competition. So, how do the site builders meet these needs?
Wix has both forum building apps and live chat apps in their App Market. You can add the apps to your site and customize them in the drag-and-drop editor. There is instructional documentation on their support site to help you.
Squarespace also has several third-party live chat integrations to choose, some developed by them and some from outside companies. They don’t inherently have a forums feature, though. According to Squarespace Quora threads, many users have been able to work around the lack of forum plugins by creating a site outside of Squarespace with a forum and linking back to it on within their Squarespace site. A better understanding of website programming and customization is needed to add this functionality and may require the assistance of a professional developer. From what we hear, it’s messy but doable.
Memberships and Subscription-Based Websites
Membership websites are on the rise. There are memberships and subscriptions for virtually anything you can think of, from business coaching to personal training to digital marketing strategies. If you’re looking into Wix or Squarespace for membership or subscription capabilities – read this first.
Wix allows its users to create member pages, where the content is only accessible to users who sign up to be a “Site Member”. Website owners can approve, remove, or automate managing Site Member sign ups. That being said, if you want to charge a subscription fee for membership, you’re out of luck. Wix does not support subscription fees being charged. Their suggestion on how to get around this is to offer a PayPal button to Site Members before their membership is approved. Sounds kind of the same, but this method creates several extra steps for website owners and forces you to use PayPal, as opposed the other payment processing services available.
Squarespace refers to memberships and subscription-based services as “recurring payments”. They don’t offer built-in options for recurring payments, but their customization features allow you to tap into third-party services that will integrate to Squarespace and handle all the subscription levels and payment processing. Some of the most popular sites used are MoonClerk, MemberSpace, and Gumroad. From what we read, integration is fairly easy and professional Squarespace designers can be hired to set up your membership pages and subscription levels.
Wix and Squarespace eCommerce Websites
Easy web design is nice, but if your goal is to create an eCommerce website – the most simplistic editing in the world won’t replace the ability to have an actual shop. The good news is, both Wix and Squarespace offer online shop features and templates. Each comes with their own features and limitations, so we broke down the pros and cons for each platform.
Shop Editor & Templates
Both site builders allow you to choose from having an online shop-only template or a regular template with a store page added to it.
Wix allows you to have a shop unique to your site or connect to an Etsy shop. Currently, these are the only two shop options available through Wix. Both eCommerce options are managed through the editor or Wix Stores editor. The Wix Store checkout process is secured by HTTPS / TSL encryption (Transport Layer Security).
Squarespace refers to their eCommerce shops as “Commerce”. It doesn’t allow automated connection to an Etsy shop, Amazon shop or any other online shop that we found. They offer several automation options, data insights, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates, and other options that may be useful for online shop owners.
Payment Processing Services
A smooth checkout process and trusted cart service is key to a successful online shop. Both Wix and Squarespace obviously kept this in mind and came up with different solutions for their shop owners. Wix Stores gives the owner a choice of 12 payment processing services. Some of the most notable are Stripe, PayPal, and Square. Squarespace offers integration with Stripe, PayPal, and ApplePay. Both platforms accept all major credit cards and are subject to payment processing fees, determined by the service you choose.
Importing and Exporting Your Site
(How to move to or away from Wix and Squarespace)
We should supersede this section with a disclaimer – no switch from one CMS, website builder or any other website platform to another is guaranteed to be seamless. When you’re going from one type of platform to another, you should expect some level of incompatibility, a lot of time and energy, and even some data loss. We’re not trying to imply that only Wix and Squarespace are susceptible to the issues discussed below, we’re just letting you know what to expect if you want to move your website to or away from Wix and Squarespace.
Importing data to a website may be as easy as uploading a .XML file or image, to as complicated as moving an entire website (database and design) to another website. It goes right along with the ability to backup, export, or download content from your website for those “just in case” scenarios. It’s also very handy when you want to move away from that domain or platform completely. We looked into both Wix and Squarespace to see what they had to say on both these capabilities.
According to Wix’s main site, “Your Wix site and all of its content is hosted exclusively on Wix’s servers, and cannot be transferred elsewhere.” The company goes on to explain that “specifically, it is not possible to export or embed files, pages or sites, created using the Wix Editor or ADI, to another external destination or host.”
This is a significant point and we want you to fully understand what it means. What Wix is saying, is that once you create your site on Wix’s servers, you will have no option to remove it, as is, from their servers without manually copying each word and pasting it into another platform or site. Images? Make sure you keep all your original images because those won’t copy over, either. You’ll have to start completely from scratch and either invest the time necessary to convert your site or hire a professional web developer to do the work for you. This issue also applies to people only looking to change their Wix domain name.
Customer support can be an important resource when something goes wrong so you want to make sure whatever website platform you choose has a solid support system in play. (If you don’t plan on hiring a professional web developer who can step in as customer support, this is more important for you).
Both Wix and Squarespace offer multiple ways to get in touch with their customer support representatives, have online documentation on many or all aspects of their services, and offer online video tutorials to walk you through creating your site on their platform. Wix offers an online help center with popular topic solutions and a ticket submission option. Their technicians will receive the ticket and call you during option hours, which are Monday through Thursday, 6 AM to 5 PM PST. Squarespace offers their customers 24/7 email support or live chat support during operation hours (Monday through Friday, 3 AM to 8 PM EST).
Squarespace Pricing vs Wix Pricing
On top of site design methods, functions capability and customer support – pricing is pretty important. You don’t want to get trapped in a money-suck and realize not only can you not easily move your content – you may not be able to move it at all. Wix and Squarespace are comparable in price, but there are some minor differences that should be noted. We’ll also include some helpful charts below with the breakdowns.
Wix offers pricing plans with varying features for each. You can have a forever free website, listed as a subdomain on the Wix site (for example, www.fused.wix.com), or a paid hosting option that ranges from $4/month for a two-year plan to $30/month for a month-to-month pricing plan. Two important aspects to point out are that the forever free website will have ads and branding from Wix and that online store capabilities don’t begin until the $15/month price range. All paid domains on Wix will also incur a $14.95-$15.95 yearly renewal fee.
Squarespace offers four pricing plans from $12/month to $40/month, billed annually ($16/month to $46/month when going month-to-month). Ecommerce sites start at $18/month. All domains purchased through Squarespace will also incur a $20 yearly renewal fee. Squarespace does not offer a free plan option.
Conclusion: Is Squarespace or Wix Better for Business Websites?
While there are several pros and cons to choosing Wix or Squarespace as your website builder, the choice ultimately comes down to which one has the design and functionality you want for your website.
Your website is the single most powerful marketing tool for your business and it’s a big decision which you choose.We can’t make that decision for you though, and even if we could offer an easy solution – we’d be biased. We’re professional web developers who a) charge for our services and b) specialize in a variety of languages and CMS’s outside of the website builders here. (WordPress forever!) We could tell you all about the benefits of WordPress and how Wix and Squarespace match up to WordPress, but that’s another topic for another day that won’t help you decide between these two website builders.
So, if you want our professional opinion – here’s the best we’ve got.
If you absolutely never want to touch code, you’re only trying to create a simple blog, never want to hire a professional web developer, and don’t foresee needing extra functionality or a more sophisticated website/shop – go with Wix.
If you plan on this being a starter website/shop, a simple blog, want the option to hire a professional designer, or expect growth to force you into needing a more sophisticated shop or functionality down the roach – go with Squarespace.