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It's time for two of the most popular DIY website builders to go head-to-head. We've tested both, and now we pit them against each other to help you pick the right web host for your site.
$12 Per Month (Billed Annually) – Personal Plan at Squarespace
$0.00 at WordPress.com
Squarespace offers numerous useful tools for building attractive, functional sites for personal and small business use, even if the site builder itself isn't as intuitive as its competitors.
Website builder WordPress.com is a decent low-cost choice for blogging, but competitors with more up-to-date tools make it easier to build custom websites.
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Web hosting. It’s what you need, should you wish to give your business or personal brand an online presence. Many companies act as gateways to the world wide web, but two of the most popular are Squarespace and Automattic’s WordPress.com. Though both are slick DIY website builders and competent web platforms, they have major differences that are worth exploring before you pull the trigger on either web hosting service.
Squarespace is a paid product that is available at four pricing tiers: Personal ($16 per month), Business ($26 per month), Basic Commerce ($30 per month), and Advanced Commerce ($46 per month). Squarespace also has annual plans for each tier that give you a discount and free domain name. With Squarespace, you get everything you need right out of the box, including hosting, templates (site themes), integrations and extensions (the company’s spin on plug-ins), and a content delivery network (CDN) for swift page-loading times. Squarespace’s e-commerce plans leverage Stripe and PayPal to receive payments, as well as Squarespace Analytics for traffic reports and visitor behavior.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, has five main tiers: Free, Personal ($48 per year), Premium ($96 per year), Business ($300 per year), and eCommerce ($540 per year). For comparison’s sake, Square’s annual plans for its Personal, Business, Basic Commerce, and eCommerce are $144, $216, $312, and $480, respectively. The company’s e-commerce plans support Pay With PayPal for credit card payments, and include Google Analytics for tracking traffic and visitor behavior.
WordPress.com’s free offering is a nice touch that lets you create an online destination without spending a dime. Unfortunately, WordPress.com premium plans forgo monthly plans; it’s an annual plan or bust. Like Squarespace’s plans, WordPress.com’s plans include themes, plug-ins, hosting space, and the company’s own JetPack plug-in that boosts page load times and enhances security.
If you need to create a high-end site, check out WordPress VIP. This is a custom solution aimed at enterprise users that requires you to contact a WordPress.com representative for a price quote.
Squarespace’s current build, version 7.1, makes the website builder break a bit from its past. The update introduces new, streamlined options for adding content and styling your site. Though the changes are many, Squarespace 7.1 also shares many similarities with version 7.0. So much so, that Squarespace created a guide to give you at-a-glance insights into the new features.
If you’re new to Squarespace, the 7.1 build will be available from the jump. People using version 7.0, however, must rebuild their sites in 7.1 if they want to leverage the new features. Thankfully, Squarespace offers a guide for this, too. Squarespace 7.1 is still a work in progress, so it exists alongside Squarespace 7.0, at the moment.
Squarespace 7.1 doesn’t offer template switching, as it supports all visual style options. In other words, the design you select when you create your site is the starting point; the new system offers more site customization than the preset templates previously did.
First of all, please note that WordPress.com is not the same as WordPress.org. WordPress.org is the place to download the CMS, themes, and plugins, and self-host them via third parties like DreamHost or SiteGround. The upside? WordPress.org gives you the freedom to install nearly any theme or plug-in you desire. 
WordPress.com takes a more curated approach to its themes and plug-ins. For example, you can’t install third-party items with its Free, Personal, or Premium tiers; you must have a Business, eCommerce, or VIP plan to do that. The benefit is that you don’t have to do any of the downloading, setting up, and managing of the software. If you’re the hands-off type, rather than a tinkerer, WordPress.com is a much simpler, friendlier way to get started than WordPress.org.
Squarespace has a similar outlook, as you must subscribe to at least the Business tier to install integrations (first-party plug-ins that connect to third-party apps). That said, all Squarespace plans are compatible with extensions (third-party plug-ins that bring additional site functionality).
Unlike Squarespace, WordPress.com lets you swap themes with a button click. Thankfully, WordPress.com gives you an interactive preview that lets you kick the tires a bit before you drive off the lot.
The free WordPress.com CMS only lets you work within its own plug-in and theme ecosystem; you cannot add a third-party theme unless you pay for a premium tier. Even more limiting, WordPress.com won’t let you add third-party plug-ins at all. For that, you need to create a self-hosted site using the software from WordPress.org.
Squarespace has a solid selection of extensions, integrations, and themes. In fact, a Squarespace installation lets you use third-party themes and integrations (though premium integrations require at least a Business plan).
For blogging features, WordPress.com is hard to beat. The WordPress platform began life as a blogging platform, so it’s expected that the CMS remains strong in that area. The blogging interface is simple, despite replacing its WYSIWYG editor with a block editor. Squarespace still uses a WYSIWYG editor, which may be more appealing to novice web builders. Unfortunately, neither web host grants users a tremendous amount of mobile site customization.
Unfortunately, WordPress.com lacks robust photo editing software: You’re limited to cropping and rotating. By contrast, Squarespace offers integrated photo editing that gives you more control over cropping, resizing, and the like. Still, it’s cool that WordPress.com lets you save any uploaded images to an online repository for reuse later, something that Squarespace also does.
Squarespace and WordPress.com support many measures to ensure that your site remains as secure as possible. These technologies include firewalls, secure socket layer (SSL) certificates, HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), and two-factor authentication (2FA), among other things. In terms of security, both platforms are quite identical, so you needn’t worry about compromising site safety if you select one instead of the other.
Both content management systems are chock full of SEO goodness. Both platforms are designed to be crawled by the world’s largest search engines right out of the box. Squarespace offers a SEO checklist that you should follow in order to up your site’s SEO standing. It teaches the importance of seo-friendly slugs and custom 404 pages. WordPress.com walks a similar road by offering several information-packed pages designed to separate SEO facts from SEO myths. You can’t go wrong with either service when it comes to SEO.
Squarespace and WordPress.com also differ in their customer service approaches. Squarespace provides 24/7 email support and live chat from Monday to Friday, 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. WordPress.com offers 24/5 email and chat with each of its paid tiers (free accounts get nada, sadly). Business and eCommerce accounts receive priority support. Sadly, Squarespace and WordPress.com both lack phone support, which proves frustrating during time when you simply wish to speak to a human.
Squarespace. Both website builders can quickly get your business online, but Squarespace offers a more robust package that includes a superior photo editor, flexible blogging tools, and more customer support days. WordPress.com’s free tier, on the other hand, is recommended for people on tight budgets, and its rich choice of themes and plug-ins is a plus, too.
That said, the excellent Wix is an Editors’ Choice award-winning website builder that is very much worth your time. It provides a near-complete package that tops both Squarespace and WordPress.com.
For total freedom, WordPress.org’s downloadable CMS is the most flexible choice. Taking this self-hosted route, one that requires setting up shop on a full-blown web hosting service, lets you install anything theme or plug-in you wish (and manually tinker with site code!), but the setup process is far more complex than that of the website builders mentioned here.
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Since 2004, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including the late, great 1UP; Laptop; Parenting; Sync; Wise Bread; and WWE. He now showcases his knowledge and skillset as the Managing Editor of PCMag’s Apps & Gaming team.
When he isn’t crunching copy or facedown in a spreadsheet, Jeff spins vinyl, plays the odd PC game, enjoys a craft brew or a shot of Mr. Black, fires up his Kindle, works the heavy bag, hops on his exercise bike, or dusts off an extremely dusty electric bass guitar.
In the past, Jeff’s appeared on a New York Comic Con panel (Geeks of Color Assemble!: Minorities in Fandom), created his own indie comic (Spin Cycle, Inc.), and put together a PAX East panel (Fragging Gamer Stereotypes). These days, Jeff’s working on a sci-fi novel.
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