SquareSpace versus WordPress + Woo Commerce: Which should you choose for your creative product business?

Artists who sell jewelry, prints and gifts, creators who sell sewing patterns and fabric, are increasingly augmenting their online sales from Etsy and other online marketplaces and setting up shop on their own web sites. Which should you choose? We explore SquareSpace versus WordPress in this blog post.

Both WordPress (with WooCommerce) and SquareSpace have their benefits and their drawbacks – considering one or the other comes down to what your business and what YOU as the owner of that business wants to take on – or get help doing.

SquareSpace is a Saas – or Software as a service – company. They own the code, they maintain the platform, you merely rent your own site there, much like Shopify or BigCommerce. SquareSpace leapt onto the scene some years back with a really revolutionary way to edit sites and took off as a very easy to use platform. But in it’s ease of use, it came with a lot of drawbacks – it didn’t have as many options for customization of features, they don’t have phone support of any kind, it can run slow at times (although that seems to have been alleviated in recent years.)

WordPress and WooCommerce is practically an industry standard. WordPress powers more than 35% of the internet – that ‘s millions of sites! So there are extensions and add-ons that can do everything but bake you a cake (and we’d be surprised if there wasn’t a plugin for that, too.) If you can dream it – or your online creative product store needs it – you can do it with WordPress and WooCommerce.

Which should you choose?

Assess your skill level

Every entrepreneur has the abilty to learn to manage their own marketing. But many don’t want to – it takes away from the creativity of their business to worry about servers, and upgrades or security and customer tools like discussion boards and online accounts. SquareSpace and WordPress are both easy to use, with an hour or two of training, and both have ample number of companies and consultants that can help. Seeking out someone who has developed for creative product businesses before is key. Artists, designers, DIY’ers and makers need different kinds of sites that many development shops work on, and they take a design approach and a creative feel that working with a design-and-marketing oriented company can handle. Entrepreneurs often like to work with women like them (and there aren’t many women in the business, but the ones that do are responsive, professional and have an eye for a creative products business.) If you’re not too techy, SquareSpace is a good choice. It’s drag-and-drop interface is well-seasoned, works well and if you don’t need to customize it, it’s a great choice.

If you are a unicorn and are both creative AND techy (at least a little bit), you might find WordPress plus WooCommerce a good choice. The benefit here is if you need to do something – whether it’s adding on a world-class membership site or managing overseas taxex for your sales in Europe – WordPress has a plugin for that. Selling courses? Yep. Selling products overseas and in the USA? Yep. Hosting events and need a calendar? Sure! You can do just about anything you dream of, likely with a free or low-cost plugin to handle it. It takes a bit more to develop a WordPress site with WooCommerce, but a good partner can help you – particularly if you choose a partner that understands design and marketing as well as development. A woman-owned business finding a kindred sister in her WordPress development team can make all the difference!

Assess your brand and design needs

Do you have an established brand with extensive requirements for design specs? WordPress flexibility is key here. Just want something out of the box that looks gorgeous? SquareSpace is for you. SquareSpace is noted for it’s beautiful templates (although there are far, far fewer to choose from than WordPress templates).

Evaluate your long term growth needs

Do you just need an e-commerce site? SquareSpace delivers. What if you think you’re going to need to add in extensive features like event registration, calendars, custom overseas tax and shipping?  WordPress flexibility may be a better choice. Cost-wise, the two platforms end up about the same in the end – even using self-hosted WordPress and some free plugins – the paid add-ons and monthly hosting come about even with SquareSpace.

You can add just about as many products as you want on WordPress, but SquareSpace will ‘tier’ you to the products you are listing.

Both platforms offer robust analytics options for commerce (using Google Analytics and some onboard sales analytics from the respective commerce engines that are used to power the online store parts of the site.)

Do you need help?

You can find help from developers on both platforms, but vetting these candidates can be daunting. And finding a female developer who understands design and marketing, as well as your creative business is like finding a unicorn. A woman-owned WordPress or SquareSpace website development firm is hard to find – but well worth it. You’ll get the kind of responsive service with that special touch of beauty and function mixed in that you deliver to your own customers.

What is the annual cost of ownership?

SquareSpace is inexpensive if you don’t use commerce, but adding commerce features ticks up the annual costs to $500 / year or more. And WordPress, (even though Woo Commerce basic is free), if you start adding on things like tax services or customizing tools, your total annual cost could approach $600+.

Do you need membership services or event registration?

While MemberSpace exists for SquareSpace (at an additional monthly fee). WordPress has many more options for membership-driven sites that connect to commerce applications and registration apps. The more complex your site is likely to become, the more you may want a flexible system like WordPress. But if your needs are simpler, SquareSpace might be a better choice. Be sure to consider down the road business plans. Many people do want to create membership systems or host paid online or in person events – and building these out of a bunch of third party services (such as Google forms, or EventBrite) can get pricey and messy.

Before you decide, see inside each system with the help of a developer

Each platform has its pros and cons. Your development team should walk you through both of them behind-the-scenes to explore what looks easier for you. Your work with them should include training and some homework on your end so that by the time your site is launched, you know how to do what you need to do to add products, update your marketing information, and keep your site fresh every week with new content. You are the best marketer for your business – and working side by side with a professional is a powerhouse of talent that can’t be beat!

Want some help with that?

Do you want to see inside these platforms? Contact us for a behind the scenes peek. It’s free.