Two roads diverge in a digital wood. To the left lies a rapid Squarespace site, and to the right, WordPress. Each presents a potential path to sustainable business growth. But which to choose? Clients often approach us with equal parts excitement and anxiety—and we get it. A misstep can cost precious resources. So, which offers the clearest path forward?
Like most things in life, “It depends.”
We’ve successfully created over 300 websites over the years and recognize the near-endless variables that come into play when choosing the best option for your organization.
What might appear as a sunny well-worn path could later reveal deep ruts that trap you in a particular direction or boggy footing that slows your progress. It’s only by digging into the particulars of your brand, core differentiation, goals, and business requirements that the answer becomes obvious.
Still, there are some key things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Squarespace templates—a simple path to getting your business online, fast
Are you a small business on a tight budget? Do you need to accelerate your timing and score some quick wins?
Squarespace was absolutely built with your organization in mind.
A simple drag-and-drop website builder, we’ve leveraged our deep experience with high-performing websites to launch highly successful Squarespace sites in just weeks—without the expense of web developers or designers.
If you don’t need sophisticated site architecture or robust tools, you can absolutely launch a beautiful, professional-looking website without breaking the bank. It also means a greater portion of your budget can be freed for the work that often delivers the greatest impact—high-quality, behavior-science-informed content.
What do we love about Squarespace?
- A deep library of block types, including photo galleries, video blocks, testimonial sliders, and contact forms that support the rapid development of your site
- Platform updates that have made it easy to implement SEO best practices, delivering your site the visibility Squarespace once couldn’t offer
- Maintained code, so you don’t have to tap a developer to mitigate security vulnerabilities as you do with WordPress
- Simple management—everything’s in one place, from domains and SSL certificates to Google Workspace accounts and basic web analytics
One core recommendation: We find Squarespace sites really shine when supported by beautiful photography or custom design elements. So, while the platform does integrate with Unsplash for backend access to free stock images, we suggest hiring a professional photographer or committing to a small design budget if you can. These elements will communicate your unique brand and value proposition in a way stock simply can’t. And because hunting for free images that accurately reflect your organization can be challenging and time-consuming (heck, sometimes impossible), it may not add a big expense to your final product.
Now, while Squarespace really nails simplicity, you should understand that this simplicity comes with some limitations.
A few of our key frustrations:
- You can’t create parent-child relationships or secondary navigation elements in Squarespace, making it challenging to deliver an intuitive user experience (and the clear content hierarchy Google prefers) for content-rich sites
- Lack of control over primary and secondary button styles across all block types means you can’t fully execute conversion optimization recommendations
- While third-party extensions can extend Squarespace functionality, including offering mega menus, the available options are more limited (by orders of magnitude) than the WordPress marketplace
- The ability to add custom front-end code and functionality is limited and middleware or backend code can’t be added, which are critical to high-volume businesses and those that command higher price tags
At the end of the day, however, if your needs are fairly simple and straightforward, Squarespace can prove to be an intelligent business decision.
WordPress themes—a sometimes smart option (but proceed with caution)
Your more robust business requirements may require the features and functionality found in WordPress—and you might be looking to WordPress themes to minimize your costs and accelerate time-to-launch.
While this is certainly possible, you should know this path forward also introduces uncertainty to your project. You’d be wise to enter into this decision with your eyes wide open.
What do you need to know?
Ask any experienced developer, and they’ll tell you everything’s fine until it’s not, and then you’re stuck. The overrides and workarounds needed to get your WordPress theme looking and functioning the way you’d like sometimes end up breaking something elsewhere. Then you’re caught in a cycle of working around the workarounds—and the time you thought you’d save by opting against a custom site can get burned in development hours that don’t deliver real value to your business.
Unfortunately, when you first start pulling at the thread in your sweater, it’s hard to know if you’ll eventually be standing with a pile of yarn at your feet.
In our experience, these sites often prove to be a client liability as the code needs to be managed and bugs are far more common and inevitable. Especially over time, things tend to break when security updates and deprecated code eventually introduce a spanner in the works.
That said, this option can work as a medium-term solution for some.
If you do go this route, we recommend you find a well-documented theme that only needs a few tweaks to fonts and colors to get you where you need to go (a seasoned developer can help you make this assessment). While your ultimate WordPress website might feel just subtly different than the theme as it’s not custom-designed, it might be more than enough differentiation to suit your needs—and by minimizing changes, you may also mitigate the short-to-medium risk of the site blowing up on you.
Fully custom WordPress sites—a sound investment in your future
There’s nothing that can compare to a fully custom site built by a senior web development team. We’ve seen jaw-dropping, eye-watering performance—time and time again. Also, our senior, full-stack developers find that when clients want a more branded website experience and deeper functionality, going the fully custom WordPress route is more cost-effective in the long run. There are fewer surprises and fewer fixes when you build things right—right from the start.
From our perspective, fully custom is always the better of the two WordPress options—both now and in the long run.
What do we love about fully-custom WordPress sites?
- Developers can fully execute custom designs for a bigger splash and a more seamless look and feel
- Near-endless open-source plugins ensure you can deliver against even complex functionality requirements
- Clean code and well-defined blocks make it more cost-effective to maintain your site and build it out over time than a WordPress theme
- Fully custom front-end, middleware, and backend code, as well as bespoke functionality, empowers complex sale and high-volume businesses—as well as those offering high-price products and services—to capture both more business and more actionable data
How do we take you there?
When we build custom websites, we typically begin with our unique Behavioral Influence Strategy. This gives us an unparalleled understanding of how to define your brand, boost differentiation, and find the critically important, competitive whitespace.
Our designer then reviews your Behavioral Influence Strategy document and conducts a design intake session to gain a deeper feel for your style and culture—ultimately creating a resonant visual experience that stands apart.
Our senior, full-stack devs then develop a fully custom WordPress site for you from the ground up, meeting the specific needs of your business. Using advanced custom fields and guiding templates in the CMS, our developers build out brand-aligned blocks that lock in your design, ultimately giving you the flexibility to spin up pages just as quickly as a Squarespace site—all while ensuring your design doesn’t unravel over time.
We also frequently create custom functionality, like interactive ROI calculators, immersive graphical representations, and progressive profiling tools to boost engagement and supercharge conversions.
The result: Websites that boost the performance of established enterprise businesses and make startups look larger and more mature than they really are—like they just lept forward five years. In fact, our custom websites have proven key to boosting client business valuations and securing funding—like placing 24 unbranded keywords in first place for a new startup, lifting inbound sales calls for a three-decades-old business operating in 122 countries, and raising $47M in 1 year.
Your best path forward?
In the end, there is no “right” answer—simply an answer that’s right for you and your organization.
So, as you stand at the fork in the road, reach out to us. Our strategic business and technical intake will ensure you rocket down the path best suited to achieving your goals.