About 4 years ago I made a controversial call at our agency. I pulled WordPress as a platform to build websites. This was controversial for a few reasons:
75,000,000 websites are built on WP. That's a large share of the market.
WordPress is a buzz term. A lot of clients know it and request it because WP is all they know.
My staff were concerned that if we didn't offer WP sites we would get less business.
All are legitimate concerns, however, I didn't make the call lightly. When I looked at the 500 most recent websites we had built at the time, 180 were on WordPress. Of all our support requests for anomalies over 80% were on sites that used the WP platform. Once those websites were swapped with Wix, Squarespace, or custom code, those websites joined the 20% of anomalies support. This means we had had an 80% drop in website related issues since switching away from WordPress. That's a huge decrease!
I, personally think using WordPress for a website is like going to look for a new car in 2019 and leaving with a 2001 Hyundai Accent passed off as a 2019 Audi R8. The platform is bloated, many of their updates have been compiled on top of each other, plugins are only as reliable as the third-party developers, and unless you are excellent with code, you know a WordPress site when you see one. I had other, more technical concerns, but I felt those points were enough alone to switch.
So, let's remove WordPress from the equation and talk Wix vs Squarespace. Before I do though, it's important that you understand I'm talking web design on this post. We offer full-service web development with custom code. Those sites are in the league of their own. Let's keep things on a level playing field.
January 2020 Update:
We have seen a growing number of businesses and brands reaching out asking to get away from WordPress. Of those that still want a WP site, we have been able to happily convert them all to Wix, Squarespace or a custom site.
What this data shows is there is just no reason to limit yourself to WordPress. Squarespace offers easier desktop editing and Wix offers the best mobile optimizer.
Wix is a great platform when you have no idea how to build a website. If you've ever used Word or Photoshop, Wix works similarly. You start with a template, you drag and drop, and in a matter of days, you can have a professional-looking website. I love their image libraries and access to stock images. Other highlights include their Wix Apps which are kinda like WP plugins but vetted and completed by the Wix team so you know they'll be stable. Wix also offers a cleaner process for edits than WordPress. The Wix mobile editor is aces! It's actually my favourite pro to the Wix platform.
There are a few big items that really bug me about Wix. Their developer tools are absolute garbage. Custom coding in Wix is kinda like asking your partner for a favour on the same day they learned you cheated on them—just don't do it! Wix is also limited in some functionality that they should have updated forever ago: full-width layouts, eComm first sites are clunky, and no ability to export.
January 2020 Update:
Wix has since added some impressive new features. They have an AI site builder that is highly intuitive and their developer panel continues to improve, giving those who know HTML and CSS a chance to crack their knuckles and create some magic!
Squarespace is a modern website builder with incredible templates and an excellent system for custom coding. Most of our SS sites have a lot of custom code and as such, they rarely look like a SS site. Coding in SS is a breeze. The editor is easy to use and the guided block approach will keep even the least organized designer on task (unlike Wix). I absolutely love how they've organized their menus (except code and CSS, which I'll get to) and I'm a pretty big fan of how modern a SS site feels. You can build nearly the exact same site on WP, Wix, and SS ... SS will feel the most modern every time. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a fan of spacing out blocks of content equally. SS makes this easier and I think it goes a long way to understanding why SS sites just look awesome no matter what.
While I love SS, there are a few ridiculous limitations. Little things like adding drop shadows or backgrounds to text need to be coded. You can't really scale menu items, which is frustrating. The big piss off with SS though is the mobile editor—there isn't one. That's right, they use automation to create your mobile site, which rarely ever gets it right. Every single SS site we host has custom code to get the mobile layout right. With mobile being incredibly important today it seems absolutely insane to me that they haven't released an update with a mobile editor.
Their mobile editor is still pretty crappy but if you don’t custom code anything on this site the AI will get it right for the most part. Just make sure you keep track of what blocks you add to desktop. This way they’ll appear in a more succinct vertical order on mobile.
But What About SEO?
I recently had an instructor for a course I took state that "Squarespace and Wix aren't good for SEO like WordPress is". This statement is flat out wrong. A lot of people believe that WP is better for SEO because of Yoast, a plug-in that walks you through the process. There were several years there when WP was better but that is a thing of the past.
Wix has a great step-by-step SEO guide. Start there. Then optimize your content. After that, make sure you submit your site to Google Search Console and start on off-site SEO.
Squarespace buries their SEO tools a bit more as they automate most aspects. However, at the page level, you can click on the cog and edit SEO settings. Then, just like with Wix, optimize your content, submit to GSC and get to work on off-site SEO.
We have rigorously tested whether WP, Wix, or SS are better for SEO. In the end, we found equal results across all 3 platforms when taking the same actions on each.
And the Winner is ...
If you're comfortable with code and a rigid block approach to editing then Squarespace is hand's down the best host and editor. If you're looking for something easy that makes mobile editing a breeze, Wix is the winner. It really comes down to priorities in your design process.
We at SyncDS love Squarespace and whenever we can, we will use the platform as our #1 choice.
Need help with your website? We can elevate your build above the obvious features of these platforms or get you a custom coded site that meets your wildest expectations. Let's talk.