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Choosing the Right Website Platform: A comparison of WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace

By Kayla Walters


Choosing the right website builder can be a daunting task for a small business owner. There are many options available, but the three most popular choices are WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace.


These platforms have their own unique features and benefits, but each also has potential drawbacks. When making your decision, consider your budget, the complexity of your website, and the level of support you need. Ultimately, the best platform is the one that will help you build the website you need.


Let’s explore the characteristics of each platform and how each can benefit you as a small business owner.


Ease of use


Squarespace and Shopify are incredibly easy to use and require no technical knowledge. They are popular among DIYers, as it’s simple and quick to create your first website. Both offer an easy drag-and-drop interface that allows you to create a professional-looking online store in minutes.


WordPress, on the other hand, can be challenging to set up and use, especially for beginners. Installing and configuring your website will require some technical knowledge, and using the interface involves a learning curve. However, there are professionals out there who can take care of all the technical aspects for you.


Flexibility and customization


Standard WordPress websites and those designed with WooCommerce (WordPress’s free e-commerce platform) give you the most flexibility and allow you to tailor a website to your specific requirements.


From customizing the look and feel of your website with themes and plugins to setting up payment gateways and shipping rules for e-commerce, WordPress provides a sky’s-the-limit experience that may be crucial for businesses with advanced needs.


There are thousands of free and premium themes and plugins available that can add functionality and enhance your website’s design. You can also hire a developer to create customized plugins or themes.


Squarespace’s and Shopify’s design and customization options are limited compared to WordPress. While there are many themes and apps available, you cannot create custom themes or plugins. Also, you may also need to hire a developer to make design changes to a Shopifysite, as those themes are coded in a language that is unique to Shopify’s platform.

Ownership


Many business owners who are evaluating a website builder are chiefly interested in ease of editing or designing their sites. The most important and often-overlooked factor, though, is the level of control and ownership you have over your website.


Squarespace and Shopify require a monthly subscription to manage your website: you are ultimately renting your site from them, and you are subject to their pricing and policies. You also have limited control over your website, and you cannot move it to another hosting provider, nor can you create full backups of your site and protect your hard work.

With WordPress, you own your site. You’re able to create full backups of your website and have full control over its content, design, and functionality.


Security and support


Squarespace and Shopify are leaders in security and support. Both platforms are closed environments, and they take care of security for you, including SSL encryption, PCI compliance, and fraud detection. This means that you don’t have to worry about the technical details of keeping your store secure.


WordPress, on the other hand, is a popular platform, which makes it a target for hackers. You will need to take extra precautions to ensure your website is secure, such as using strong passwords, keeping your plugins and themes updated, and installing security plugins. You can also hire a professional to keep your website up to date and secure on a monthly basis if you want to be completely hands-off.


Pricing


Both Squarespace and Shopify are subscription-based website platforms, and their pricing plans can be expensive, especially for small businesses. For Shopify, the basic plan starts at $51 per month, and the advanced plan can cost up to $517 per month. Squarespace subscriptions start at $23 per month, and their commerce advanced plan is $65 per month. On top of that, you pay transaction fees for each sale.


WordPress, however, is free to use, and there are few or no ongoing fees or subscriptions. If your website requires unique functionality, those add-ons may have an annual fee, but normally you will only need to pay for a domain name ($12–$20 CAD annually) and for hosting, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $50 per month, depending on your needs.


Which platform is better for my business?


If you plan to DIY your own website and need something aesthetically pleasing but fairly basic to get your business started, Squarespace is a great place to start.


If you want an e-commerce shop, Shopify is generally better suited for small to medium-sized businesses looking for a quick and easy solution to set up and manage their online store.


However, if you want full ownership and control over the website, if you plan to grow your business or think you might need more flexibility or customization down the road, WordPress and its e-commerce platform, WooCommerce, are better suited for this. When properly maintained, this website platform can grow with your business, regardless of what you need your website to do for you.


Ultimately, the decision will come down to the functionality you require, your budget, and whether you plan to DIY the website yourself or hire a professional.


Just remember, websites will change and are commonly redesigned every three to four years, so make the choice that will help you build the website you need right now. You can always switch or upgrade your website later down the line!


Kayla is the owner of Good Cheer Web Design, and she’s on a mission to help women business owners create beautiful, game-changing WordPress websites and help them use tech to run killer businesses. She’s been designing and maintaining websites for over 15 years and loves working with women who are ready to target their ideal clients, make more money, and decrease stress behind the scenes. When she isn’t glued to her laptop, she loves exploring the city with her dog, Gus.


Want to learn more about the platforms mentioned in this article? Head over to GoodCheerDesign.com/resources for links to each and for more information about how Kayla can help you maintain your website with a monthly WordPress Maintenance Plan.


[KH2]$49 is USD [CW3]Does the platform grow, or just the website?

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