Should you choose WordPress or Squarespace for your nonprofit website?

Squarespace and WordPress

When you are planning a new website for your nonprofit, you will need to decide on the platform that powers the website. Squarespace and WordPress are two popular options. Both have a range of features suitable for a nonprofit website.

I build nonprofit websites with both options. In general, I recommend WordPress for the long-term, but Squarespace is excellent for a small nonprofit website. I also have nonprofit clients that are running their sites successfully with Squarespace and have done so for years.

Squarespace and WordPress are also known as content management systems (CMS). A CMS is just the software you use to edit the content on your website. A CMS will allow you to do things like accept donations and collect contact information.

As a nonprofit, you have the task of finding a system that will provide all the features you need while fitting into your budget. In this post we take a look at these two popular web platforms, and note some advantages and drawbacks of each.

What are WordPress and Squarespace?

WordPress is an open-source CMS that you run and manage on your own web hosting account. A web designer or developer will create a custom theme or install an existing theme for you. The theme controls the design of the website. You can install WordPress plugins that add functionality to your website.

Squarespace is an all-in-one platform that combines web hosting, design, and content management into one system. A designer will modify an existing template, or create a custom one using the developer platform. Most of the website functionality is already built-in to Squarespace, and you can use some third party solutions to fill in any gaps.

Why should I use WordPress?

WordPress can be a great choice for a nonprofit website. It’s widely supported, stable, and adaptable. The availability of high-quality themes can help provide a solid design foundation for the website, and completely custom themes can be built as well. Plugins for accepting donations, creating forms and event calendars bring additional functionality to the website.

Example WordPress Nonprofit Themes

WordPress also makes content management straightforward. It works well in a multi-author environment where more than one person is contributing to the website. Content can be version controlled, granting authors the ability to revert changes. The content editor is easy to use, and anyone familiar with word processing software will be able to use it without trouble.

WordPress Pros

  • Flexible and customizable
  • Open-source
  • Portable (you can move your site to a different host)
  • Widely supported
  • Many third party themes and plugins available
  • Content version control

Why should I choose Squarespace?

The Squarespace platform can also be a good choice for a nonprofit website. The available templates are well designed, helping you create a consistent experience across your website. You can customize the designs further with the Squarespace tools, or hire a web developer with knowledge of CSS, the web language used to style websites.

Example Squarespace Templates for Nonprofits

With other platforms such as WordPress, a web developer may spend more time modifying source code to create a custom design for your website. In general, Squarespace allows a web designer or developer to build a site faster, saving you money and getting your project live sooner.

Squarespace Pros

  • Easy and quick to get started
  • High-quality templates
  • Potentially lower initial cost
  • Less complicated than WordPress
  • All-in-one solution

What are the potential drawbacks to WordPress?

A common objection to WordPress relates to security. Because WordPress is a widely used platform, it can be a target for those that want to cause trouble. But much of the security concerns with WordPress can be accounted for with correct setup of the software and theme, careful use of plugins, and a secure hosting environment.

It is recommend to use WordPress-specific hosting such as Kinsta or Pantheon. (See my notes about WordPress hosting.) Other considerations with WordPress would be the need for ongoing software updates and the cost of any commercial plugin licenses.

WordPress Cons

  • Easier to create potential security problems
  • May require more expensive hosting
  • More complex to set up and modify
  • More expensive if you hire a developer

What are the potential issues with Squarespace?

Squarespace does many things very well. However, you may find an occasion where you run into limitations of the platform. It doesn’t do everything, and it is more difficult to get around limitations than WordPress.

There is no content versioning, which means it’s harder to see what has changed and more difficult to undo accidental changes. The media management tool is limited—you may find yourself uploading multiple copies of the same image for use on different pages. Sometimes the page editor can be a bit quirky.

Squarespace Cons

  • Less flexible in the long run
  • Harder to fine tune your site performance
  • More difficult to optimize for search engines
  • Not set up for content versioning or multi-author environment
  • Limited backup options and hard to undo changes

So which one should I choose?

Ultimately, that decision will be driven by the specific needs of your project. Squarespace will get you up and running quickly, and likely for a lower cost. WordPress will give you more flexibility in the long run. If you are just starting out building a website for a nonprofit, Squarespace is a great choice to get online with a lower investment.

Some things to keep in mind when planning a website design project are:

  • The initial design cost
  • Ongoing cost of hosting and maintenance
  • Recurring software licensing fees
  • Whether the system will meet your needs
  • And if the platform is flexible enough for changes and enhancements.

Whatever you choose, there are ways to migrate at least some data from one to the other so you are not locked into a system. You can always make a change in the future. Keep in mind any platform migration project will be comparable to a new website project in cost and scope.

If you need help deciding, or would rather hire someone to build your website, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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