In the modern business environment, most companies are investing tons of money into their online web presence. This is due to the ever-changing business climate that now favors the technologically savvy smooth operators who utilize the power of deep-rooted internet infrastructure to gain a competitive advantage.
This is especially true for companies delivering physical products all over the world. While we can't all be the next Amazon, we still can learn from the decisions that Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) has made in creating his e-commerce juggernaut.
Of course, he has the infrastructure that only 25 years of consistent, dedicated work can provide (being the largest distribution channel on the planet provides much more value than a well-optimized e-commerce website), but his website itself is also top-notch, and Amazon has invested billions into their long-term vision, which is now finally paying dividends!
So, as a startup entrepreneur, or simply someone who wants to sell physical products online, we first need to start with creating a functional website that will be our brand's platform for growth. There are a few different e-commerce platform types that you can choose from, which will determine how your store operates.
Two similar platforms that allow users to create stunning websites are Squarespace and Shopify, and in this review I will be delving into the pros and cons of each of them in order to provide you, the reader, enough data to make a decision about which platform will be best for your new business venture!
While you won't come close to being on Amazon's level, you can still get your "slice of the pie" in the growing e-commerce space, and really establish a killer brand with affordable software to help you make a thriving business. It all starts with that first decision you make about the e-commerce platform that your business will be built upon, so it behooves you to get the most you can out of this article before making your decision!
When making the decision between Squarespace and Shopify, you really need to start with evaluating why you're building a website in the first place.
Will your website be first and foremost, an information delivery system (think a blog, image portfolio, news website, etc.), or a platform that specializes in optimized e-commerce product pages? While both platforms allow for building a blog and creating product pages, one is much more geared towards the e-commerce side, while the other is more suited for information delivery.
If you're just selling a few products on your website whilst also creating a ton of informational content that serves as the real motor or engine of your brand, then Squrespace might be the better option of the two for you.
However, if you're really wanting to focus on creating a plethora of product pages and specifically focusing on e-commerce, then Shopify is going to be the best option for you.
Again, it's going to come down to the purpose with which you're creating the website for that's going to determine which platform is best for you to use!
Information delivery in the modern internet climate is becoming increasingly competitive, and as such you'll need a platform that focuses and excels on content delivery and management as well as overall website structure and design. For these purposes, Squarespace is going to be the only real option between the two for creating your information focused website.
Loaded with a plethora of templates and design elements, this platform is best suited for professionals looking to create a stunning looking website that delivers their content to their web visitors with unmatched professionalism.
Marketed towards photographers, musicians, and all other sorts of creative workers, this platform is designed in such a way that portfolios and gorgeous blog rolls are easily launchable for low to moderate tech savvy individuals. You don't have to be a web developer or know HTML/CSS in order to create amazing looking websites that deliver your content in a stunning fashion to your readers, which is something that Shopify really doesn't come close to matching!
The platform also comes with two main versions, the "normal" version, which is best suited for the everyday internet user, and the developer version, which is packed with more features for tech savvy individuals to use to really dig deep and create stunning websites that are highly specialized and optimized for their needs. This latter is more of an agency level option, so most users would be wise to stick with the "normal" version.
Squarespace makes it easy for users to create their website, but this also can be seen as a limitation, as it's really best suited for creating simple websites. Don't expect to create something truly amazing and customized using the platform (there are only 40 templates to choose from, which is less than some other options for comparable platforms out there).
The navigation is severely limited, which means that the sheer amount of pages and categories that one can create with Squarespace is limited due to the effectiveness of navigable elements being less than stellar. Again, this is for simple websites only.
Furthermore, while you can edit templates in an easily customization interface, you'll generally be stuck with Squarespace's recommendations and hard-coded templates which can limit the freedom of the individual website owner. Of course, these templates are professionally created from top industry professionals, but it's still nice to be able to edit your website to fit your needs in a completely uninhibited way, which is something that Squarespace doesn't allow entirely!
Overall, while Squrespace can get you up-and-running with a content delivery platform extremely quickly (and make it look professional to boot!), they are lacking in some areas which allow for creativity and freedom for the user. Furthermore, while you can create product pages and deliver products using the platform, you'll find that it's not the best option for e-commerce startups to use, as this functionality is really an addition to the platform, rather than an established basis for which the platform was created!
However, what if you're looking to create an online web store for the basis of your brand? Let's go ahead and analyze Shopify next.
The Shopify VS Squarespace battle gets much more heated when you enter into the e-commerce arena, where business profits are easily enhanced with great affordable designs, product page functionality, checkout funnel, UX enhancements, etc.
Both platforms actually offer an e-commerce package to get you up and running with your own functional website to deliver products all over the world, and this is quickly becoming a staple of all website builders, not just Squarespace and Shopify!
That being said, it should be apparent at this point in the article, that I really think there's no competition between Shopify and Squarespace when it comes to e-commerce.
Shopify is simply a better option for business owners looking to start an e-commerce website online.
Does this mean you have to or should use Shopify as your website creator if you're doing e-commerce?
If you're looking to create a hybrid type website that is more of a content brand with e-commerce products that you also sell, you may find Squarespace to be a better choice (or another website builder, such as Wix).
However, if you're strictly creating an online webstore, Shopify takes the cake!
What's the point of having a really extensively built website creator if it's of no use to the everyday consumer who will be using the platform.
Most of us aren't developers, and we want a solution to our website needs, not further complications and process complexities.
Shopify is an e-commerce industry juggernaut, and my personal recommendation for everyone looking to start a strictly e-commerce based website. This is mostly due to its extreme ease of use.
You can pick up a Shopify trial, enter in your details, and get started creating a fully-functional online business within minutes of signing up.
It's dashboard is extremely user friendly, with navigation elements and language being in laymen terms, making it easy for anyone to use.
While Squarespace is easy enough to use, it does come with a bit more complexity than Shopify.
I don't think moderately savvy technological users will have a problem navigating and using the Squarespace platform effectively, but it still isn't quite as seamless as Shopify.
It's professionally built with glossy, mouth-watering templates and designs, but this comes at the cost of user experience in that it's difficult to really get into the details of the platform and fully customize your website the way you want to, without spending extra time going over all documention and features available from Squarespace support.
In fact, it's widely recognized as one of the hardest website builders to use, meaning that it's more difficult than Wix, WordPress, Shopify, Woocommerce, Weebly, etc.
However, like I said, it's not a BIG ISSUE for the platform due to the fact that, if you're committed, you can still figure out what you need to do in order to make your website "truly yours" if you read enough documentation and support.
Overall Shopify is an easier platform to use than Squarespace. It's fully customizable whilst also allowing the user to seamlessly transition to different aspects of the website, with navigation elements and dashboard cues to help guide the user towards complete website creation.
Squarespace is more difficult to navigate and edit elements of the site and this definitely hampers the UX slightly. It's still usable, but it's definitely not the easiest website builder to work with!
Website design is becoming ever more critical to the success of the brand.
As we continue to launch ourselves towards technological advancement, we continue to sharpen our palettes of "website taste" so to speak.
Website's with a less-than-stellar design and content layout will find themselves struggling against their professional, sleek competitors.
For e-commerce, this is absolutely huge. Conversion rates will plummet if users find your website outdated or unprofessional, and as such it's absolutely vital that your website look professional and well-designed if you have any chance of competing in today's online business market.
Shopify itself allows users to create a professional looking webstore, despite the overall simplicity and minimalist look that is mostly delivered.
They offer a bunch of free templates, as well as premium templates that range from $100-200 a piece. These templates give your store an individual look and feel which allows for decent customization.
While I really think Shopify has hammered home on simplicity and minimalism (to focus more on getting the customer through the product pages and into checkout mode), I think they do have some work to do with overall design complexity in order to keep up with other professional website builders.
The designs just aren't quite as complex and beautiful as what other website creators offer, and this hurts them in that it will take considerable amounts of HTML/CSS and advanced website design in order to create a truly beautiful looking website.
Squrespace, on the other hand, is an industry leader in website design. This is actually the main selling point for them, as their templates are each professionally designed and modified by top creators in music, photography, acting, etc. The designs are made with the craftsmanship and attention to detail of high-level artists, and it really translates to an out-of-the-box designed website that is unparalleled by other website creators.
Furthermore, Squarespace offers 40 base templates to choose from, with each one actually feeling independent and specifically crafted. They are all sleek, modern and professional, and this provides a ton of different avenues that you can take your website towards to create a truly outstanding looking website for your users.
Choosing Squarespace as your website creation platform is the closest that you can come to a professionally designed website. This makes it the clear winner in the design category.
Shopify, while providing nice, easy to use design elements, is more minimalist and simplified for the user, which means it's lacking on the design side. Squarespace might not be as easily customizable, but with the base templates already giving the user a unique personalized feel (while also looking stunning), it really takes the cake when it comes to overall design!
Customer support is quickly becoming one of the most important features for modern businesses (most especially for technology companies) due to ALL THE THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG OR BE IMPROVED by a quick phone call to support.
Businesses have a really great chance to differentiate themselves from competitors by providing effective solutions to the customer's needs. When the customer is confused about how to use a product (even if the product is flashy, suave, and feature packed), then the product becomes less useful and provides less overall value to the customer.
As business owners, the main goal should be to provide value to the customer by solving their problems and removing any complexities that prevent the customer from achieving their end goal. Therefore, customer support is HUGE in the modern business environment, where being tech savvy is becoming increasingly more difficult (as it evolves, it requires a lot of knowledge and skill set accommodation by the consumer, which provides an issue for the customer for these technological products and services).
Now, as far as website builders go, they are usually navigable and user-friendly enough to accomplish simple website creation tasks. However, they can still provide many small issues that prevents the customer from achieving their "perfect website."
Sure, you might be able to create a website, but will it EXACTLY what you want or what is best for potential website visitors? Not likely (if you're doing it all by yourself, that is).
This is where customer support from website building platforms comes in, and it's vital that both Squarespace and Shopify provide outstanding customer support, so that you can build your website with a limited number of painful experiences!
After having explored the customer support options for both platforms, I would have to give the edge to Shopify. They offer a plethora of "support features" such as 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support options (whereas SquareSpace's livechat is only available from 4 AM to 8 PM EST).
When you're trying to build your website, you want to be able to get answers to your questions fast, and Shopify definitely has you covered with a plethora of 24/7 available staff trained to deliver you valuable information as you utilize the platform!
Also, another neat feature with Shopify is the use of a dedicated support agent if you are on the Shopify Plus plan (more on this in the pricing section of this article). This is huge as that expert agent will be able to solve all of your needs and provide some really valuable insight into steps you can take to make the platform perfect for you and your visitors.
Furthermore, if you're Shopify business is taking off and growing nicely, you can easily afford to hire a "Shopify Expert" who is able to provide customized coding and development solutions to your store (at a cost).
While SquareSpace does have email, live chat and a support forum (which allows most users to solve their problems within a relatively short period of time), they simply fall short of the outstanding customer support that Shopify has in their arsenal.
This is a BIG factor that many users overlook when choosing their website building platform, so take this into consideration. It's not really a "flashy selling point" for Shopify, but it does actually make massive differences once you get down to actually using the platform!
Ensuring that the platform that you choose for your website builder has adequate features, extensions, plugins, etc. is a key step when determining which platform is right for you.
It's not enough to evaluate which one is easiest to use and has the best designs, as the functionality of the website builder and the features that come included or added-on to the platform can make or break a business owner's investment into the site (both from a time and money viewpoint). With most website builders, you'll end up spending a fair amount on 3rd party integrations in order to get a full business up and running online, and despite the fact that there are cheap, effective options out there, it will still add up to be a hefty monthly bill!
Shopify, as the main e-commerce selling platform on the planet, does offer a great amount of features to help business owners sell their products online. However, don't let this distract you from the wonderful features that SquareSpace has available, too!
Both platforms offer unlimited product pages, the ability to add items in bulk or one at a time, revenue and sales reports, basic e-commerce email marketing (and more advanced features in paid add-ons), and a slew of other features that can make or break a real business.
However, Shopify does really win out in this section, too. They have a fantastic amount of apps to help grow a business. These are tools that integrate seamlessly with the platform (mostly created by 3rd party developers) with the business owner in mind. That means that most of the apps are super useful tools that allow Shopify store owners to handle almost every aspect of a real business just with Shopify apps and the platform itself.
They've got apps for practically every purpose - shipping, marketing, advertising, financials, support, conversion rate optimization, design, etc.
Surprisingly, despite the great base e-commerce features that SquareSpace offers, they don't have an app marketplace. Despite the fact that they offer a great amount of integrations with other platforms, they don't have a designated marketplace with tons of apps or extensions that were made for the platform itself.
This creates technical and monetary issues for practically every business owner who decides to use SquareSpace, as they will have issues integrating other products seamlessly and without hiccups, as well as costing the business owner much more overall money to have to spend money on many other business technology platforms in order to smoothly run their business on Squarespace.
Shopify is the best e-commerce building platform on the planet (in my opinion, as well as the opinion of many others), and it's precisely due to features that they offer with their app marketplace.
An entire business can be started and scaled using the Shopify platform exclusively, which is something that many other platforms on the market have no real ability to compete with. With Squarespace, you'll likely end up spending more money in the long run due to more expensive email marketing options and other 3rd party software to get the job done. With Shopify, it's encapsulated inside of one platform, with easily executable apps to grow your business swiftly.
Shopify wins this round due to their overwhelming amount of features.
If you're a business owner than you'll be happy to know that the pricing models for both platforms are greatly affordable, even if you're just starting out with your online business!
That being said, Squarespace is slightly more affordable than Shopify in the end, due to the add-on apps, themes, etc. that Shopify heavily pushes for serious store owners. While I think these features and extras of Shopify are all great, it can add to the base cost of the platform, which makes it slightly less affordable overall than Squarespace (that being said, with the extra integrations you would need if you ran a business and chose Squarespace, it might actually end up being more expensive than Shopify).
Shopify's base pricing plans are as follows:
Furthermore, you can also save some money on these monthly plans by purchasing the year-long subscription. There is also a Shopify Plus package, for business owners who are doing serious volume and need advanced infrastructure accommodation by the platform.
Taking a look at Squarespace's pricing plans:
Again, you can save money on these monthly plans by paying annually.
As you can see, the base pricing plan for Squarespace is slightly cheaper than Shopify, and I found that there were less overall "upsell" points on the platform - meaning that they won't try and sell you as much upgrades to the platform as Shopify will.
What's nice is that both Squarespace and Shopify offer 14-day trials (just head over to the websites to get the trials, easy right?) and you can test out the platform and software in order to make a decision about which one you want to go "all in" on!
The pricing for both platforms is relatively affordable for what you can do with them, but there are also some serious upgrades that you'll likely want to make with the Shopify platform (if you're starting a legitimate online business, then these upgrades are practically a necessity to becoming profitable). You can still do it on the cheap with both, but you'll definitely be spending more with Shopify.
You should also be cognizant of the amount of value that you're getting as a business owner with one platform over the other. Shopify provides much more overall value to your business (in my opinion), with their features, customer service, ease of use, and upgrades. This is something you'll want to take into consideration when looking at these pricing plans!
Both platforms are able to effectively accomplish the goal of creating a website, which can be used for personal or business reasons (although Shopify is basically all business).
Really, they should be utilized by a different niche customer, and as such it's not really fair to compare the two platforms.
Squarespace is all about sleek designs that provide an unparalleled entry point into website creation for artists of all sorts. Their beautiful designs and templates offer creative minds the ability to quickly get a portfolio or collection of digital content onto the internet for the world to see, without too many hoops to jump through.
Shopify, on the other hand, is a cold-blooded e-commerce platform that has mastered the art of quickly allowing the common man to develop and create a profitable e-commerce business online. This is replicated by a few other top sales funnel programs, but Shopify really dives deep on the e-commerce side of things!
While you can do e-commerce with Squarespace, that's not really its core purpose, so they have no business really competing with Shopify.
It may sound like a cop out, but it's most definitely not - the platform that you should choose is going to come down to your base needs for website creation, ask yourself:
"Do I need a content-centered, artistic type website creation platform, or one that is all about e-commerce optimization and fly-by-night business operations?"
Once you answer this question about your needs, the answer will be easily laid in front of you on which platform is best for you!
Another great option for people looking to start an online business is Clickfunnels. One of the top landing page creation software tools on the market today. The basis of all online business is creating a landing page and driving traffic through your sales funnel to generate profits. This is broken down in a variety of ways (in this article I talked more about e-commerce, but the premise is the same for all online business). I also highly endorse ClickFunnels, and I talk about it alot on my blog, so I definitely recommend that you consider the platform if you're looking to start an online business!