Technology has come a very long way over a short period of time. Thanks to this, starting a business can often be as simple as clicking a button. Then you can just adjust a few options right from the comfort of your seat at home.
And with any luck, it becomes profitable. And it’s not just big businesses that are benefiting from this ease of use. Actually, those who are benefitting the most are common people just looking for a way to escape the drudgery and repetitiveness of the 9-5 workplace.
They crave something less stressful, user-friendly or at least easy to learn and something that can become financially substantial.
Shopify Or Squarespace: Which Is The Better Ecommerce Builder?
There are many services that have come to the beck and call of the people to try to provide them with the best service for creating a profitable online marketplace for their businesses.
For this comparison, I sat down with both of these platforms for a few days. I tinkered with every feature I could, I tried to break the shopping carts and tested out countless add-ons.
Ready to find out which one fared the best overall?
Overview of Shopify Vs Squarespace
You need to know a few things in order to determine what ecommerce solution may be right for your business. You first need to know what exactly your needs are, as both of these platforms offer very different solutions and features to handle the same problem.
It’s important to understand the main differences between Shopify and Squarespace and there are quite a few. Each of these platforms offers something different to the end user.
One of the main differences between Shopify in Squarespace is how they are built. What I mean is that Shopify is built solely with the goal of being an e-commerce solution, whereas Squarespace was originally built as a tool for people to build blogs. It wasn’t until about three years ago that Squarespace introduced an eommerce solution to its platform.
For this comparison, I will be looking at four main areas; pricing, functionality, ease-of-use, and customer support.
Shopify is the e-commerce giant in the room and it is the leading cloud-based, multichannel commerce platform. This e-commerce solution has been built from the ground up with small to medium sized businesses in mind.
If there is one thing that Shopify does right, above all else, it is listening to their community. The majority of the add-ons that can be used for your store are extensions that have been written by community members. And who better to have written some of the add-ons for a platform than the people who actually use it on a daily basis. They are, after all, the ones who know what most people are looking for in an e-commerce solution. Of course, the Shopify team also releases official add-ons but in the event that you can’t find what you need, you are free to play around with third-party extensions.
Over the past few years, Squarespace has become one of the most used platforms by all kinds of creatives. From everyday people just looking to finally own their own blog or website, to small business owners just getting started on their online stores.
Squarespace is somewhat of a newcomer to the e-commerce game having launched their commerce solution to their platform just a short three years ago. In this time they have actually done very well. The commerce solution at Squarespace is not only user-friendly but it is extremely versatile and expandable. They have had quite a while to cover all the bases. And in the event that you cannot find an official app for your website or store, third party apps are available as well but these are not covered by Squarespace support.
Ease Of Use
I think there is one thing that anyone looking for any sort of online platform to use, needs to concern with first and foremost. That is, of course, how easy it is for them to use.
There is nothing worse than reading a ton of great reviews on a platform, rushing out and buying it, only to then realize that you have no idea how to navigate it. Some systems will require a good amount of technical skill and know-how in order to put it to optimal use. Others will not.
Know your skill level and what the system you are considering, requires of you in order to get the most out of it and then you will be better prepared in making a solid decision. To help you make that decision a little easier to figure out, check out the ease of use comparison between Shopify and Squarespace.
Shopify’s overall interface is considerably more difficult to use when compared to Squarespace. What will probably be difficult for most people when it comes to Shopify, is the amount of time it can take to get pages and site navigation working properly. Shopify uses various link lists to handle this task and for the complete novice, this can easily lead to annoyance, aggravation and a lot of time behind the screen trying to figure it all out. None of it requires any sort of scripting on your part, just not as easy as the drag and drop functionality of Squarespace.
When you are trying to launch an online business, time is precious and can’t be wasted trying to get basic pages created. On the other hand, if you are a quick learner, this is less of an obstacle and more of a minor annoyance. Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out but may take most people a moment to understand how it works.
Having said that, most of the other basic functionality is extremely easy to use and most, if not all of it, simply requires the click of a button. Shopify has done a great job of making their dashboard fairly easy to use. Not only is it full of great features, which we will be discussing soon but they are constantly working hard to make it more and more user-friendly.
Overall, I rather enjoyed how easy it is to get around the Shopify dashboard, upload products, and images as well as get a template installed. The minor annoyances are extremely minimal and even then, they are easily figured out whether on your own or with the excellent Shopify documentation provided by the company and community.
If you are unfamiliar with drag and drop editors, let me explain. Drag and drop just means that you are able to drag around the elements you want on your website. Wherever you drop them they will appear to your visitors. The best thing about this method is that it allows you to build your website exactly as you’d like because you can see the changes on the website as you make them in the editor. And, even better, it is all done from within the same screen.
This way of building your website or store is obviously quite a bit easier than they way you would have to do it in Shopify.
Now, for the bad news. While this way of building your site will work just fine for most of the Squarespace templates, for others, not so much. The problems with this begin when you realize that some functionality you want isn’t necessarily available from all of the templates.
For instance, one template may allow you to change the size or color of a product description text, whereas another may not offer that same functionality.
In this situation, it is up to you to dig deep into the CSS and write the lines of scripts for it yourself. This isn’t really what you’d expect from a platform that is touted as being a great drag and drop solution to having to touch lines of code.
While this probably isn’t a deal breaker for most people, it does still carry yet another complication. The problem with editing lines of code on a Squarespace site that a lot of people have run into is the resulting limited support. Even if you modify the smallest portion of code, Squarespace reserves the right to restrict the type of support, if any at all, that they can provide you when you run into a problem.
The dashboard was much more enjoyable to use than the Shopify dashboard.
With Shopify, you get all kinds capabilities and these are built in right from the ground up as part of the main framework of the platform. This may provide some comfort and reassurance of security for many business owners who want to run an online shop but don’t want the hassle of having to find trustworthy add-ons and extensions to get the job done efficiently and securely.
Squarespace not being a native eCommerce solution does things a bit differently than Shopify. Whereas Shopify offers features and capabilities built into their platform Squarespace offers you add-ons in the form of community-driven and released extensions in addition. While it would be awesome to discuss all of these extra add-ons and features, it would require an entirely separate blog post just to properly cover the best ones.
For now, have a look at some of the key features of both platforms that you should really be interested in:
- Abandoned cart recovery
- 256-bit SSL secured shopping cart
- 70 payment gateways
- Accept credit cards
- PCI compliant
- Mobile ready
- Full blogging platform
- App store
- Marketing tools
- Full access to the HTML and CSS files for your store
- Daily backups
- 24/7 customer support
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Drag and drop editor
- Mobile ready
- 3% sales transaction fees
- Xero accounting integration
- Accounts for 2 contributors
- Unlimited products
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 24/7 customer support
What good is a website or online store if you have no style? I mean, sure, you could get away with a minimalist website but that probably won’t be very appealing to your visitors. This is where templates come into play.
If you have ever launched your own blog, then you are probably familiar with templates, also known as themes. With templates, you can style your site in various ways to make it look more attractive.
Let’s take a look at how both of the platform templates work and how they stack up against each other.
If you decide to go with one of the paid themes, you will most certainly get what you pay for. All of the premium themes are made by third-party designers who really know what they are doing, so you are guaranteed to find one that is compatible with the vision you have for your online store. Any theme that you purchase will only cost you a one-time payment and then it’s yours, forever. Have fun trying to find the right one though as the majority are beautifully done and there is a LOT to look through.
Since Shopify is built from the ground up for online storefronts, the majority of themes you will find in the Shopify marketplace are also geared strictly toward businesses. There are a few exceptions but literally, there are just a very few.
If you aren’t quite ready to purchase a template, however, you do have some free template options. Nine of them to be exact.
Overall, Shopify’s theme selection is very impressive and rather large. In total, you are given over 100 premium themes to choose from. And they do have some rather impressive themes within the large collection. The free themes have multiple variants of themselves that can be used as well.
There is more variety in the Squarespace templates than what you will find in Shopify for sure. But this is simply due to the fact that Squarespace was built as a website builder for a variety of websites as I have mentioned previously. You will also find out rather quickly that if your intent is to own an online store, the templates for this may be a little too limiting for you for the very same reason. It is a bit of a double-edged sword in this way. But with a selection as massive as this, it’s not a huge downfall.
Now for the big question. How much is this going to cost you?
Both of these platforms offer four pricing options but the difference in price is like night and day. Below, you can see a comparison of these packages and make the best decision for your business.
Shopify is clearly the more expensive option here, but it in return for this you are given a lot more functionality, ease of use and phenomenal customer support. Essentially, Shopify offers four plans in total, but their ‘Lite’ plan does not allow you build an online store. When choosing what plan you will go with, please be aware that this cost does not include any premium themes or add-ons to your site, as we discussed earlier.
The Shopify plan options are as follows:
- Shopify Lite- $9 per month
- Basic Shopify – $29 per month
- Shopify – $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify – $299 per month
All of the above plans are also available as annually priced plans. If you have the means to do so, I highly recommend going with one of the annual plans. When you do, you will actually save a lot of money in the long run over these plans. If you pay for an annual plan you will save 10% and if you sign up for a two-year plan, that discount jumps up to 20%.
Be careful when selecting your plan as all of them come with more or less functionality. For instance, if you need the cart-saver or detailed reporting functionality, these are only available on the $79 plan and up.
Another thing to be aware of is what the Shopify Lite plan comes with. This plan does not actually let you build an online store. Shopify Lite is more useful for someone who wants to sell products directly on their Facebook page or at a physical location.
Squarespace offers four monthly pricing options. These four options are broken down into two types of packages; ‘websites’ and ‘online stores’. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which one you of the two packages you choose though as there is technically not much of a difference other than a few minor details such as an increase in sales transaction fees.
- Personal – $16 per month (Website)
- Business – $26 per month (Website)
- Basic – $30 per month (Online Store)
- Advanced – $46 per month (Online Store)
Just like with the Shopify plans, all of the above options give you a decent discount when you sign up for an annual plan. You can find the discounted prices below:
- Personal plan will drop to $12 per month
- Business plan will drop to $18 per month
- Basic plan will drop to $26 per month
- Advanced plan will drop to $46 per month
No matter what platform you choose, you need to pay attention to what you are getting for your money.
With the personal plan, you need to be aware that it only allows you to have up to 20 pages. Your blog posts are not part of this number, it is only limited to the number of website pages. All of the other plans don’t put restrictions on this, however, so you essentially can make as many pages as you need.
If you decide to start at the business plan level or above, you will get a free account for a year on Google Apps.
While Squarespace is not solely an e-commerce solution, you can surely use it as such. But this functionality doesn’t really start to become useful until you get past the Business plan. You would be better off just getting the Basic plan. It isn’t that much more expensive and saves you on 2% sales transaction fees.
Our Final Review for Shopify Vs Squarespace
In this article, we have looked at the comparison of two of the biggest platforms available. One that works best for setting up blogging or other general websites. The other, for setting up ecommerce stores.
Squarespace is great for the beginner or rather the person just beginning to build their online business. It comes with tons of great built-in features and is extendable even further with community driven add-ons and extensions. The price point for this platform is inexpensive. This is the one thing that makes this first step into the world of e-commerce a relatively painless one.
On the other hand, we have Shopify which is great for anyone who already has an existing online business.
With Shopify, all of the add-ons and features are taken care of for you. This is thanks to the fact that they are built right into the platform. If you want to extend the functionality, this is also possible with Shopify.
However, most of the plans with Shopify are rather expensive. This can easily be a hindrance to any new e-commerce store owner who’s just starting out.
Both platforms perform equally as well and each provides different kinds functionality.
In my opinion, Shopify is easily the winner here.
Not only is Shopify easy to navigate for most people but the support is amazing. Not to mention that everything works pretty much out of the box. Everything requires minimal input from you, cutting down on time spent adjusting every small detail. Anything thing that isn’t, can quickly and easily be up and running in a few clicks. Shopify is definitely more expensive but it is absolutely the best option. And especially for anyone looking to open an online store. This platform, overall, will pay for itself in the long run.