What is the most valuable platform on which to build your website? My research could surprise you! Let’s discuss Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace for 2018, plus look at examples of websites built on each. Finally, based on your specific business needs and how long you’ve been in business, I’ll recommend either Shopify, WordPress, or Squarespace for you.
This is unlike anything I’ve ever recommended – I used to be a die-hard WordPress advocate. But after developing WordPress websites for five and a half years and working extensively with Shopify, my point of view has shifted.
And even though I’ve written about WordPress versus Squarespace before (and spoke about it on a podcast episode!), that was years ago, so it’s time to revisit the topic for 2018 – and I’m dying to make it a Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace trifecta because Shopify is amazeballs for the rightpeeps!
All three platforms will help ensure your website is responsive and works beautifully, so grab your cup of tea and let’s get in there, superhero!
Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace
Here’s a video for you to learn the fundamentals of Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace for 2018 in under 10 minutes (or scroll down to read all the details below!).
Below you’ll find the rough transcript of the video plus additional details on the three platforms to help you pick the best content management system (CMS) for your business, whether you’re a beginner at entrepreneurship still mapping out your offers, or a seasoned business owner.
Shopify is an amazing one-stop shop with no maintenance or coding skills required. For reals. You can have a really nice, fully functional website that sells all your products up and running fast with this tool.
Other Shopify perks include:
- ‘Point of sale’ technology (sell your products in person too with iPad/iPhone apps!)
- Automated EU VAT calculation
- Free SSL certificate
- Awesome templates that are easy and fast to build on (I’ve built sites from scratch in 2 days)
- Tons of reports and custom reports (on your highest-selling products, which other products get added to the cart when a customer views product X, view your top discounts by sales at a glance, customers expected to spend the most at your store, and more)
- Semi-customized marketing ideas built right into your Dashboard
- They even take care of security and every single update for you
- Its integrations keep evolving and fast, so that, for example, you can as of the fall of 2017 tag your products in your Instagram posts (just like you would tag a person!) and when people click on the image, they get taken straight to the product page on your Shopify website. Shazam! Talk about more effective Instagram ads!
- The only thing you need to buy is your domain.
- Support is fast and good 24/7, which is kinda priceless
- Pricing starts at $29/month (Shopify will take a commission as a percentage of your sales in addition to their monthly fee for running your whole shebang, but you can get 10% and 20% discounts if you pay upfront for an annual or two-year plan)
Shopify cons include:
- 10 free templates and 51 paid ones (so you’ll need great photography to stand out! … but this is somewhat true regardless of your CMS, so templates and photography shouldn’t carry too much weight when you’re deciding between Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace.)
- It’s programmed on Liquid so it’s potentially harder to find someone to do a custom-build
- All your files live on Shopify so, if you want to switch platforms later, you cannot carry over your files and instead will have to build your site up again from scratch on the new CMS
- Shopify lacks a great way to prevent fraudulent orders, so you could potentially find yourself dealing with that headache for months and checking on all your orders (yup, this is an issue even with the best ecommerce platform I know!)
- More work to enable Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- SEO power isn’t superb but you can add apps to help
Examples of websites built on Shopify:
- Happiness Abscissa – this simple, elegant site sells fragrances without designy frill.
- Poopurri – this website (which is hilarious and if you haven’t watched their commercials, click here to do yourself a favor!) looks like it’s had a lot of custom work done on it, so get ready to hire a Liquid developer if you want something this complex. But of course, you can get away with something much simpler that’s beautiful and, more importantly, strategic so it will sell.
Who Shopify is for:
I’ve worked with Shopify since the fall of 2016 setting up and managing six online stores and, if you sell physical products, I recommend Shopify for you 100%. Check out their risk-free 14-day free trial here.
You already know WordPress: a wonderful platform to build on that is open source and free. It is flexible and powerful, and when discussing Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace, it’s worth mentioning that WordPress currently runs 29% of the Internet (it’s not for nothing)!
WordPress perks include:
- You have full control over all your files and can make your website look however you like – you can be as finicky as you please if you learn how to code or hire someone to code it
- If you’re DIYing, there are endless beautiful, responsive themes to choose from
- The possibilities are basically endless if you have the funds to hire a developer. For example, you can create a snazzy system like Callyssee’s, where customers click on the products they want to create a custom product bundle and see them added to cart at the bottom of the screen without having to refresh the page. (You could do this on a platform like Ruby on Rails, too, but that would entail a much much higher cost.)
- You can also get started quickly (I’ve built custom WordPress sites from the ground up in 2 days! Granted, if you’re new to WordPress, it will probably take you longer.)
- WordPress 4.9 has released some killer updates (read about ’em here) – and lately each core update has been impressive! Soon enough, you may not need theme builders anymore!
- It’s very SEO-friendly if you follow SEO best practices (like enabling AMP for faster loading speed!), so your blog can take off more easily
- The community is incredible – you’ll find the help you need fast online, at local Meetups, or at a local yearly WordCamp conference!
- Keep in mind that while WordPress as a software is itself free, you’ll need to purchase a domain ($15/year) + website hosting (as cheap as $4/month) to run it, and likely a great paid template ($50-$150/year)
WordPress cons include:
- You need to buy SSL separately (but HEY hosting providers like Siteground give it to ya for free!)
- It requires regular software maintenance, including backups, to keep it running glitch-free and safe from hackers (HEY I have a sweet course on that! Get on the mailing list anywhere on the site if you’re interested, because it’s currently being updated and spiffed up! So when deciding between Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace, don’t let maintenance be the deciding factor.)
- They don’t have a support team – you get support from your host instead (so purchase hosting from a company that provides great service – again, I will recommend Siteground)
- If you want to sell physical products, you will have to set up taxes/shipping/EU VAT/all that nightmarish stuff yourself (or outsource it)
- It takes more time to learn it well enough to make more customizations yourself or more resources (those dolla dolla bills, y’all) to hire a developer
Examples of websites built on WordPress:
- Marie Forleo – A unique custom build for a business website on WordPress.
- Brené Brown – Website of the brilliant researcher and writer Brené Brown.
Who WordPress is for:
I’ve been building WordPress sites for entrepreneurs and world-changers since 2012 and continue to believe that, if you run a blog and a service-based business, WordPress has extensive flexibility you can leverage to help you stand out and consistently level up your marketing and visibility. If you want to sell physical products? Give Shopify a try. And if you’re a beginner with few resources? Keep reading, pumpkin!
Squarespace is somewhere in the middle of Shopify and WordPress. Squarespace was originally crafted for users to build content-based websites as opposed to online stores, but it lacks the powerful flexibility of WordPress. The normal Squarespace version is what you’ll probably use, as the developers’ platform is for agencies and coders (this is the one that can be customized more fully). So let’s chat about the former.
- Intuitive drag-and-drop user interface (UI) (FYI you can get this on WordPress too depending on the theme!)
- 84 free and beautiful templates
- Strong photo editing and displaying tools (so it’s especially great for visual artists)
- Good blogging function
- Free Typekit fonts to make your website more unique for less moolah
- Minimally editable templates are practical for non-creatives (hard to mess up what you can’t break, amirite?)
- You can do some tweaks by coding in CSS
- Security and maintenance are all taken care of and SSL included (same as Shopify)
- Easily enable AMP on blog posts (yay!)
- As cheap as $12/month (Personal plan)
- 24/7 support as well
- Just like with Shopify, your website files will all live on Squarespace so if you want to switch platforms, you cannot carry over your files and instead have to build it up again from scratch on the new CMS. But when considering Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace, don’t let this deter you – it’s worth it if the platform is right and even with WordPress sometimes you need to scrap it all and start again from scratch!
- It only integrates with the payment gateways Stripe and PayPal (and so you can only sell to countries supported by these companies)
- It only integrates with MailChimp for your email marketing (red flag! But if you’re new in biz, you’ll probably go with MailChimp anyway so it won’t matter)
- Less SEO power than with Shopify or WordPress
Examples of websites built on Squarespace:
- Darren Booth – A stellar way for non-tech-savvy artists or restaurant owners to showcase their work
- corp.bandsintown.com – A more corporate website, similar to many you’d see built on WordPress.
Who Squarespace is for:
If you’re looking to display your work (say, if you’re a graphic designer or videographer) or menu (if you’re a restaurant owner) on a simple website, then Squarespace is the most convenient option for you to quickly set up an attractive website and showcase your creations. Or if you’re just starting and want to get out there fast with as few resources as possible to begin until you can upgrade to WordPress or Shopify. Sign up for a free Squarespace trial here.
As you can see, superhero, there’s a lot of think about when considering Shopify vs WordPress vs Squarespace for your business. This blog post was inspired by a question from one of you lovely humans! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll be sure to clear up any doubts you might still have!