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When you are planning a new web project, you will need to take into consideration the content management system (CMS) that powers the website. If you don’t know what a content management system is, at a basic level it is just software you use to edit the content on your website.

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 will take a look at two popular web platforms, and discuss the 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. Plugins might be installed that add functionality to WordPress and 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 will be built-in to Squarespace, and some third party solutions may be required 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.

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.

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. The designs can be customized further using the Squarespace tools and by a web developer with knowledge of CSS, the web language used to style websites.

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.

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. Other considerations with WordPress would be the need for ongoing software updates and the cost of any commercial plugin licenses.

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.

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, while WordPress will give you more flexibility in the long run. Things to keep in mind when planning a project are the initial design cost, any 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, though you should expect any platform migration to be comparable to a new website project.