Shopify vs Squarespace : Which one is better?
Deciding between Shopify vs Squarespace should be a walk in the park. After all, they are both meant to fulfill the same purpose, build websites, right?
But even while this is the case, these two great platforms started life rather differently.
While Shopify was initially designed to help users create their own e-commerce website from scratch even with no web design skills, to begin with, Squarespace was originally intended for creating and maintaining content-based websites.
But which of these two great platforms between Shopify vs Squarespace is the best at providing e-commerce solutions? That’s what we are going to find out.
Recently, however, Squarespace has seen the addition of e-commerce features to its design and this puts it in the same business with Shopify.
Let’s find out!
Building a Website vs Building an E-Commerce Store
The first thing you want to do when deciding between Shopify vs Squarespace is your main objective. Do you want a website or are you looking to create an e-commerce store?
Alright granted, an e-commerce store is technically a website but what we mean here by “website” is creating a platform to share information from any discipline such as health, nature, wildlife or lifestyle.
With an e-commerce site, the main goal is to sell products online.
Building a Website
Let’s assume your interest is building a website. This will require you to focus on the design and the management of content. In this case, the clear winner between Shopify vs Squarespace is the latter of the two.
Squarespace has neatly designed templates, well-developed blogging features, has very intuitive CMS and is just a delight to use.
Note that Squarespace offers its users with two main options; the normal platform and the developer’s platform.
The normal platform is the most commonly used. However, while it still offers excellent features, it lacks more advanced features of the developer’s platform which as the name suggests is designed with the web developer in mind.
Of course, the developer’s platform allows greater customization of the website but to fully utilize its features, users need to have a background web development.
Most of you out there, however, may not be well versed in web development and this is why when deciding between Shopify vs Squarespace we are going to focus on the normal platform.
While it still offers great features, suffice to say that it is only suited for a simple website.
One of the main challenges we found when deciding between Shopify vs Squarespace is the navigation with the normal Squarespace platform.
Once you create the main parent page, which will come with subpages, you are only able to view the subpages once you click on the parent page.
Second, you are limited to just how much you can customize the template. Of course, you are able to change certain aspects such as the typefaces and colors but really not much else.
But don’t get your hopes down.
That said, the templates are very well designed and you can make them look even better by tweaking the colors and the basic designs.
Ironically, the lack of too many options and features have the added benefit of making it super easy to build your own website with the Squarespace normal platform.
But how does Shopify compare?
Squarespace allows you to build a professional looking website in no time. You will be able to display images and content better. Shopify simply doesn’t offer users these kinds of features.
Building an E-Commerce Site
Things take a confusing turn when deciding which one the two between Shopify vs Squarespace to use when building an online store.
The two platforms make it possible for users to build decent e-commerce stores. To decide which one is best, you have to weigh the pros and cons of each.
With Squarespace, you have 4 monthly subscriptions to choose from.
- Personal plan at $16/month
- Business plan at $26/month
- Basic plan at $30/month
- Advanced plan at $46/month
Users in Europe should note that the prices are exclusive of VAT. They are also discounted when users pay upfront for a whole year.
Shopify, on the other hand, provides users with 5 monthly plans.
- Shopify Lite at $9/month
- Basic Shopify at $29/month
- Shopify Plan at $79/month
- Advanced Shopify plan at $200/month
- Shopify Plus at around $2000/month depending on the requirements.
Users should also note that in cases where they pay upfront for a whole year, the discount rates are between 10% and 20% on the different Shopify plans.
A few things to keep in mind with Squarespace:
- You will not be able to sell with the personal plan
- The business plan charges 3% transaction fees on any sale
- The maximum number of site admins and authors are restricted to 2 with the personal plan
- With the online store’s plan, you get a year of e-commerce reporting
- When you pay a whole year’s subscription on any plan, you get a free custom domain.
A few things to keep in mind with Shopify:
- You will not actually be building an e-commerce site with the Shopify Lite plan but rather you are able to use your existing Facebook page or website by adding the Shopify sell button.
- You only get gift cards with the higher priced plans.
- To get advanced e-commerce reporting, you will need to subscribe to the higher priced plans as well.
Transactions and Credit Cards
Both Shopify and Squarespace will charge users transaction fees and credit card fees.
What’s the difference you might ask?
Well, transaction fees are charged on each transaction depending also on the monthly plan while credit card fees are charged when processing payments again depending on your monthly plan.
Let’s start with Shopify
Users have the option of using Shopify payments in which case they will not pay any transaction fees. However, users still pay the following credit card fees:
- 4% +30c on the Advanced Shopify Plan
- 6% +30c on the Shopify Plan
- 9% +30c on the Shopify Lite and the Basic Shopify Plans
If you, however, opt for third party payment gateways to handle your credit card transaction Shopify will require you to pay:
- 2% transaction fees on Shopify Lite and Shopify Basic plans
- 1% transaction fees on the Shopify plan
- 5% on the Advanced Shopify plan
But what about Squarespace?
Well, their transaction fees only apply with the business plan in which case you pay a rate of 3%.
As far as the credit card fees go, since Squarespace only uses PayPal or Stripe, these two payment options will determine how much you are charged on your credit card depending on their rates.
Note that both transaction and credit card fees will vary depending on the country you are transaction from or to.
For example, when using Stripe, Squarespace users in the US will pay 2.9% +30c for every transaction while in the UK users will pay 1.4% +20p for every transaction provided the user is using a European card.
Note that if you want to opt for the Shopify payments, you can only do so if you are in any of the following countries:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
Which brings us to our next point…
You can think of payment gateways as processors of credit card transactions.
With Shopify, anyone anywhere in the world can pretty much use the platform as it is compatible with over 100 different payment gateways.
Squarespace on the other hand only uses Stripe and more recently added PayPal to the list. These are just 2 payment gateways compared to Shopify which has over 100.
From a strict payments point of view, Shopify remains the clear winner.
With Squarespace, their $14 per month personal plan is enough when you are only interested in creating an information website.
However, this is not enough if you are aiming for a more content driven site. The personal plan lacks a lot of features that you will need to achieve this.
The next best option is their business plan which will costs you $26 per month but comes with e-commerce functionality.
On the other hand, with the Shopify basic plan, you are able to build a fully functional e-commerce store at a $29 monthly fee.
Recall that Squarespace only offers users 2 payment gateway options and charges 3% transaction fees on their business plan. Even while the Shopify basic plan is a bit expensive, it is still the better option when you consider the 100+ payment gateway options.
And when you want to forego building your own website, Shopify offers users the Shopify Lite plan at a $9 monthly cost.
However, keep in mind that there plenty more to consider between Shopify vs Squarespace than just the monthly charges and the payment gateways. Let’s find out.
Comparing the two, Shopify has been around longer as an online store building platform. Because of this, it has a more extensive list of features that far outweighs that of Squarespace.
Coupled with the more than 100 payment gateways, Shopify also allows for drop shipping, has more advanced e-commerce reporting features and has a point of sale technology to mention a few.
Both the Shopify and Squarespace interfaces are not very different. On the left side of your screen is the menu. You can use it to move to different sections of CMS such as settings, analytics.
We found Squarespace to be a little simpler to use thanks to its drag and drop feature when setting up the site. It is very user-friendly.
This is not to say that Shopify is difficult to use just that setting up your site can take a bit of time compared to Squarespace.
However, Squarespace does tend to get a bit slow when making use of its drag and drop feature and we found that it was easier to use on some browsers than in others. Squarespace also tends to hang when uploading images.
This is not so with Shopify as its responsiveness is quite fast.
To best make use of Squarespace, you will require a decent machine with a fast processor. As far as speed and responsivity go, Squarespace is the better choice.
Squarespace has some pretty templates even more so than Shopify. What’s more, while Shopify offers users with 10 templates, you can choose any of up to 70 with Squarespace.
However, we found that the awesome looking templates on Squarespace are designed for a website that is more information geared than an e-commerce platform. In fact, out of the 70 templates, only 16 of these are meant for an online store.
Have You Decided on a Template Yet?
Good, now pick any of the many visuals such as parallax scrolling.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the Squarespace images allows users to enhance them, even more, thanks to their integration with Getty Images. This means that instead of spending a lot of your dollars buying images directly and then uploading them, you will only spend around $10 plus VAT to download images directly to your Squarespace.
And things don’t stop there!
You can add a Vimeo or YouTube video as a template background.
But let’s consider Shopify. While their templates may not be as visually appealing compared to Squarespace, they are still very well designed.
And if you feel like they are not up to your standards, you can always buy better-looking templates from the Shopify template store.
This means that your options just went up even higher than with using Squarespace provided you are willing to cough up between $140 and $180.
With these new templates, you also get features such as parallax scrolling and video backgrounds.
Which one is better between Shopify vs Squarespace really comes down to the user’s main intentions. Squarespace is the better option for information-driven websites such as blogs while Shopify templates are ideal for e-commerce stores.
Importing and Exporting Products
You can import and export products on both Shopify and Squarespace but while the former only lets you do this using a CSV file, Squarespace provides users with plenty more options.
With Squarespace, you can use Shopify, Big Cartel, Etsy as well as a CSV file. This gives it an edge over Shopify itself.
However, Shopify excels at exporting product data and it doesn’t really matter the type. With Squarespace however, you can only export physical products.
Search Engine Optimization
With Shopify, there is an automatic generation of meta descriptions and page titles for all the products and pages. This gives things a head start.
Things, on the other hand, are a bit different with Squarespace. While Shopify uses the basic SEO terminology such as meta descriptions, alt text, and titles, Squarespace uses names such as captions, excepts and descriptions.
These can still be used for SEO but the problem is that if not used correctly, they can end up showing on your templates.
SEO Is Better on Shopify
SEO is just simpler with Shopify as you are using the basic terms as they are normally used. In other words, it is less confusing.
Another great advantage with Shopify is that it will prompt the user to develop a 301-page redirect every time they change the URL of the page. The process is simple as well. By a simple tick of a checkbox, the task will automatically be done for you.
Creating a 301 page direct on Squarespace could be easier as the process will have to be done manually.
Point of Sale
POS or point of sale is a feature that is only available on Shopify but not on Squarespace. It makes it possible to not just sell products online but at your physical store as well.
To best make use of the POS, users will require a barcode scanner, cash drawer, a card reader and a receipt printer. As you sell both online and from your physical store, your inventory count is kept in check by the POS system.
While it is possible to use Squarespace to sell from a physical store the difference is that there will be no printing of paper receipts or using the physical equipment such as barcode scanners.
The card details would be added to a tablet or laptop and then they would receive a receipt through email, well, theoretically.
For the majority of people who venture into e-commerce, their main intention is to do dropshipping. This is where the user acts as a middleman between a business and its clients by posting the businesses products on your site.
Once a customer orders a particular product, you send that order to the owner of the business or supplier and they, in turn, send the product to the customer.
The main advantage with drop shipping is that you will not have to purchase stock. However, due to the high competition involved, the profit margins are usually very low.
Between Shopify and Squarespace, it is Shopify that offers the best features when you want to start a drop shipping business. There are plenty of apps to facilitate this such as Oberlo.
This is more than can be said for Squarespace.
For users on Squarespace, an alternative would be to use Shipstation or to register for a Shopify Lite plan and add the Shopify buy button to your Squarespace site. This, however, is a lengthy procedure and nowhere near as simple as just using Shopify for dropshipping.
You will get mobile apps to help manage your site whether you are on Shopify or Squarespace.
As far as Squarespace goes, there are five main apps available on both iOS and Android:
Frequently Used Apps
Of these, the most common apps include the commerce and blogs app. They allow Shopify users to manage orders as well as publish content while on the move.
Analytics & Note Apps
The Analytics app allows you to use your smartphone to check the stats.
And when you want to make notes and publish on platforms such as Google Drive, DropBox or Evernote, the note app allows you to do just that without the need to log into your Squarespace account.
The Portfolio App
The portfolio app allows users to download the images on Shopify onto their smartphones. You can show them to people when there is no internet access.
Many Apps on Shopify
Shopify also provides users with plenty of apps. However, there are two main ones that are popular among Shopify users.
The main Shopify app comes with a few basic features in one such as checking the stats and managing orders.
The second is the point of sale app. This makes it possible to accept orders and payments from a physical retail store.
Like we said, Shopify offers you plenty more apps but these two are the most commonly used apps by mobile users.
So, which is better?
Suffice to say both Shopify and Squarespace offer users better management of their sites via mobile apps but the way these two platforms approach it is quite different.
Squarespace users have to download a different mobile app for the specific task at hand. With Shopify, users can manage their site with just one or two apps.
Shopify apps are simple to use. However, since Squarespace apps are designed with the individual task in mind, they could be better at solving those specific tasks.
Selling Digital Goods in EU
If you plan on selling goods in the EU, you need to keep note of the VAT MOSS or VAT Mini One Stop Shop.
When selling goods to different countries in the EU, you have to include the value added tax of the individual country you are selling to.
While Shopify will automatically calculate the VAT of that particular country, this is not the case with Squarespace where you have to manually input the rates.
Lets first define what SSL is, shall we?
This is the standard security technology which enables an encrypted link to be sent between the web server and the browser. Its function is to ensure that the data shared between the browser and server is safe and remains private.
Recently Squarespace allows its users to install SSL certificates and the good news is that the user can use it with any domain. This is also true with Shopify.
Both Shopify and Squarespace excel at SSL access.
When you buy any of the plans on Shopify for a whole year’s subscription, you get a free domain. Now it’s important to note that you can also get a custom domain with Shopify, but it is by no means free. You will need to pay an annual fee of $13.
However, you can also buy domain names through Squarespace as well.
The benefit of having a domain with either Shopify or Squarespace is that it becomes super simple to host your own site since the settings come pretty much pre-configured. What’s more, you are still getting a TLD or a top level domain.
To provide the best display of products images with Shopify, they need to have the same aspect ratio. Otherwise, all visitors will see is an uneven display with different sized images.
This inconsistency is not very visually appealing.
It Gets Hard
And it is not the simplest task to ensure the same image size on your Shopify store. A trick is to use image editing software such as photoshop to resize the images.
Another alternative is to use Pixc; an image editing app by Shopify. It will provide you the first 150 images free editing but anything above that and you will have to pay a monthly fee of $0.05.
Things are much easier with Squarespace. Once you decide and select on the best aspect ratio to display your images, the system will crop them automatically.
What’s more, users can even define a focal point on the images. This ensures that the main part of the image is on display and isn’t cut off.
We found that the Squarespace e-commerce reporting feature only provides the basic stats such as sales, traffic sources, and visitors.
Shopify, on the other hand, is much more advanced. Some of the reports include:
- Sales reports
- Finance reports
- Acquisition reports
- Behavior reports
- Customer reports
And things don’t stop there.
With Shopify, you can even create your own custom reports.
But there is a drawback.
To be able to access Shopify’s reports, you have to be subscribed to their costlier plans from the advanced plan and up. Their lower priced plans only offer basic reports similar to the ones on Squarespace.
Similarly, if you want more advanced reports on Squarespace, you will need to be subscribed to their more advanced plans.
Of course, a way around this on both Shopify and Squarespace is to use Google Analytics. This, however, means configuring and adding settings manually.
One of the most important aspects of running an online retail store is blogging. You can use quality content to drive traffic to your e-commerce store.
While it is not all e-commerce platforms that provide users with the blogging option, at least both Shopify and Squarespace have this feature.
In terms of which of the two offers the most features, we’ll have to go with Squarespace on this one. Users can make use of both categories and tags. However, with Shopify, you can only use tags.
With the Shopify app store, users can find literally thousands of integrations that can be used with apps. What’s more, there are plenty of apps that can enhance the functionality of your Shopify store such as dropshipping and enhancing SEO.
This is not so with Squarespace. While it is still possible to integrate other applications with Squarespace, user options are not as diverse as is with Shopify.
AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is a format that makes the content load extremely fast on mobile devices. The way it works is by leaving out certain information from the main site to deliver a trimmed down version of your mobile phone.
With such a format, there is better user experience as loading is instantaneous. With such fast loading, users will stay on your page for longer which often translates to more purchases.
What’s more, Google gives priority of AMP pages and ranks them above normal standard pages.
It is really simple to enable AMP with Squarespace. All you will need to do is find the relevant checkbox in your site’s settings.
There’s a lot more to do to enable AMP in Shopify. You will need a third-party app such as fireAMP and RocketAMP which you will have to pay for.
Squarespace has a partnership with Google which allows it to offer users with a G Suite integration. It allows users to manage certain tasks without having to leave the site such as adding users, renaming users and reviewing G Suite invoices.
You can also use G Suite with Shopify. You will, however, be required to edit the DNS settings for the email accounts to work.
CSS and HTML Editing
There is a lot you can do in terms of coding your Shopify site and in fact, you have complete control over HTML and CSS on all Shopify plans apart from the Shopify Lite.
On the other hand, Squarespace allows you to edit CSS but only some parts of HTML.
Remember what we said about the developer Squarespace version? With it, you can get more control over the coding of the site. To take full advantage of it, however, the user will need to have a strong background in coding.
With the phone support, live chat and email support provided by Shopify, it is safe to say that it performs better in this department than Squarespace.
There’s only email support and live chat with Squarespace. The main downside that we found on both sites is that before you can receive any support, you will first have to peruse their help pages for the question you want answering. This can be rather annoying.
- Users of the Shopify platform can list an unlimited number of products
- Users enjoy 24/7 support including a LiveChat feature
- Comes with has fraud analysis feature
- Comes with abandoned cart recovery which has been shown to boost sales by up to 30%
- Not the cheapest e-commerce building platform
- Users do not get to enjoy a free domain name
- The most affordable plan offers just 2 staff accounts
- Users can list an unlimited number of products
- The annual plan offers a free domain name
- Comes with 24/7 support
- The site is optimized for mobile phones
- Paying monthly for the various plans is more expensive
- The domain renewal cost of $20 may be a bit steep
- Doesn’t feature abandoned cart recovery
Wrapping it up
When it’s all said and done the bottom line is deciding which is better between Shopify vs Squarespace. The answer, however, is not that simple. If your main aim is a content and information-driven website, then Squarespace is better.
If on the other hand, you intend to build a large efficient and effective online store, Shopify is your best bet thanks to its more advanced features, a large inventory of resources and professional reporting.