Our Pick for Best Website Builder: Shopify
For business owners who are looking to build a brand new website or migrate to a new web host, our clear choice is Shopify. It's affordable, offers valuable metrics for tracking sales, inventory, and customers, and has easy-to-customize design elements. We compared features in several categories to come up with our winner, but you can read our reviews here to see if you come to the same conclusion.
Shopify is a dedicated ecommerce platform, which means that it has features designed specifically to support retail businesses. You can check out Shopify’s features free for 14 days before choosing a pricing plan to continue using its services. Squarespace is a website builder geared towards a broader base of business owners, so it offers plans both with and without ecommerce stores. Squarespace has a similar 14-day free trial so you can try it before buying it.
Ease of Use: Shopify vs. Squarespace
Both Shopify and Squarespace are point-and-click website builders, but the interfaces work quite differently. Both are relatively intuitive, but let's see how they stack up.
Ease of Use: Shopify
Shopify has two dashboards, one to track all your business information and metrics, and another within the website builder for customization. These dashboards are where you can see everything you need to know about your Shopify site, and they are well-labeled and easy to follow. You can point and click to change colors and fonts, upload photos and other media, and add and remove website sections. Shopify also makes it easy to integrate outside sales and social media platforms and has 24/7 support available for all its paid users.
Shopify's website builder interface dashboard is intuitive, but the menus, while useful, can begin to seem a little redundant. The only other downside to the builder interface is the lack of autosave, meaning you need to frequently manually save your work to avoid losing it, especially during long building or updating sessions.
Ease of Use: Squarespace
Squarespace is also a point-and-click interface, and it allows you to click-and-drag the sections of your website to complete the aesthetic you're aiming for. Squarespace's dashboard is organized and intuitive, making it easy to build a site that conveys your business's personality and purpose. The color and text options on Squarespace are varied, clean, and modern.
Squarespace isn't as intuitive to use as other click-and-drag or point-and-click builders; there's a bit of a learning curve as you get used to the controls. It also doesn't have an autosave feature, so it's imperative to save manually as you work. Another downside to Squarespace is that its sites are image-laden, so high-resolution photos are best; however, this content can lead to slow loading times. Squarespace has an extensive troubleshooting library and customer support options included in its paid plans if you get stuck.
Themes and Templates: Shopify vs. Squarespace
Choosing a website builder often comes down to finding one that gives you the customization options to create a site that's meaningful, beautiful, and functional — on your terms. Let's see how Shopify and Squarespace shake out in this category.
Themes and Templates: Shopify
Shopify has just over 100 free and paid themes that you can use to customize your site. You can also import CSV files to create your own theme and you can modify existing themes in HTML. Shopify's templates are easy to use, and you can add and delete sections to suit your needs.
Themes and Templates: Squarespace
Squarespace also has more than 100 free and paid themes for customization. They are clean and professional but almost a bit too stark. There isn't much room for additional customization, but if you're not interested in coding that's not a dealbreaker. The templates are sorted into categories by business type, which is helpful when choosing one that fits your needs.
Apps and Plug-ins: Shopify vs. Squarespace
Business websites need to perform a variety of functions, and the site alone often isn't enough to cover all those needs. You need apps and plug-ins that fit your aesthetic, integrate easily, run smoothly, and don't break the bank with outrageous upfront and subscription costs.
Apps and Plug-ins: Shopify
Shopify's app store has thousands of applications and plug-ins to enhance your website, ranging from calendar apps to tracking widgets. If you need it, you'll likely be able to find it. Many of the apps are free in a Lite version and don't cost much for the full versions. However, some Shopify apps require a monthly subscription, and those costs can add up if you're not keeping a close eye on them. Shopify apps and plug-ins work seamlessly once installed, so it definitely has a solid integration process in place.
Apps and Plug-ins: Squarespace
Squarespace doesn't have traditional apps or plug-ins; instead, it uses what it calls "extensions." These extensions are all third-party applications that you can purchase to integrate into your website. Buyer beware of discounts and prices that seem too good to be true— you don't want to get locked into software that is being discontinued. It's a good idea to do a little background research on any extensions before you buy them. Once purchased, though, Squarespace users report that they have very little trouble using the extensions, so integration isn't a significant concern.
Ecommerce: Shopify vs. Squarespace
Your website isn't only an advertisement and informational tool for your business, it also needs the capability to sell your products and services too. If you want to take money and complete orders through your website, you require ecommerce features that are easy to use for both you and your customers.
Shopify was created with ecommerce businesses in mind, and it is dedicated to helping business owners streamline their online sales. Shopify has detailed metrics that track inventory and website traffic and offers discounts on shipping with most major carriers. Shopify also features the ability to set up customer accounts, coupons, and rewards programs, and offers discounts on shipping with most major carriers. There are no limits on how many products you can sell in your online store, and having multiple inventory locations is a nice feature for businesses with both brick-and-mortar and web-based enterprises. Shopify stores can take most major credit cards (although transaction fees apply), as well as online payment methods like PayPalⓇ, and its proprietary payment system, Shopify Pay. All paid Shopify plans include the use of Shopify Lite point-of-sale (POS) software.
Squarespace has plan options that include ecommerce, but that's not its only focus. The ecommerce features of Squarespace are a bit utilitarian, but they do increase in usefulness and detail with each pricing tier and most work without a third-party extension. Squarespace has unlimited space for products and services, so you can set up shop and sell without fear of running out of room for listings. One nice feature is Squarespace's relationship with the Square® POS system; it makes taking credit card payments simple and efficient.
Pricing: Shopify vs. Squarespace
Overhead costs are a big factor in running a small business, and you don't want to allot too many resources to your website maintenance costs. Smart business owners make it a priority to find a website builder that offers excellent value and practical features for an affordable price.
Shopify has five price points; they each have essential shopping functions, can track inventory, have order and product management, and come with Shopify's POS Lite software, which can be upgraded to the full version for $89/year. Shopify discounts its plans when you pay upfront for one, two, or three years of hosting. Shopify is also a one-stop web builder because you can purchase your domain directly from them, saving you time and money. If you have an existing domain, you can migrate to Shopify for a nominal fee. Here's how Shopify's pricing plans break down.
Shopify Lite, $9/month: This "just the fundamentals" plan has limited features and does not have a public-facing web store. You have use of Shopify's dashboard to manage inventory and sales. You also get limited metrics and a “Buy Button” to link your Shopify inventory to your existing sales channels.
Basic Shopify, $29/month: This plan includes all the universal features, plus the features of the Lite plan. The Basic plan also includes a front-facing retail store, an SSL certificate, an extra user profile, and the ability to have up to four inventory locations.
Shopify Shopify, $79/month: This mid-tier plan adds more user profiles and inventory locations, up to five for both categories. Shopify’s Shopify plan also includes more advanced professional metrics, and it's possible to add international domains and sales to expand your business abroad.
Advanced Shopify, $299/month: For a decent jump in monthly costs, you get all the features of the lower plans, plus additional shipping integrations and customizable advanced metrics are available. The Advanced Shopify plan allows up to 15 user profiles to serve small-to-medium retail and ecommerce businesses with multiple employees based in multiple locations.
Shopify Plus, starts at $2,000/month: Shopify Plus is a full-service web hosting and integration service that serves medium-to-large ecommerce enterprises. Shopify Plus is tailored to each individual business, with web hosting, international ecommerce options, and inventory and supply chain management.
Squarespace offers four pricing plans which are discounted slightly when you pay for an annual contract. You get the benefit of purchasing your domain directly, so there's no added cost. Since all plan prices are slightly higher when you pay month-to-month, you should take advantage of the 14-day trial before committing to a plan.
Personal, $12/month: The lowest-cost pricing plan from Squarespace is ideal for side businesses or projects. The Personal Plan comes with a domain name, search engine optimization (SEO) and basic metrics options, free website templates, unlimited storage, the ability to add a second user and plug-ins, and 24/7 support.
Business, $18/month: Squarespace's most popular plan includes all the features of the Personal plan but also adds unlimited users, custom email, the ability to change templates with coding, and a fundamental ecommerce platform with no limits on transactions. There is a 3% transaction fee, and the platform doesn't include full integration. Donations can be accepted on this plan, making it a good choice for start-ups, service-based businesses, and secondary enterprises.
Basic Commerce, $26/month: This plan includes a more robust ecommerce platform with features like on-site checkout, customer files, sales and traffic metrics, and marketing and merchandising tools. This plan doesn't have any transaction fees and works best for all types of small retail businesses.
Advanced Commerce, $40/month: This top-tier ecommerce plan elevates all the features of the lower-tier plans by including subscription and discounted shipping options. This plan is excellent for small-to-midsize businesses looking to increase business but keep their overhead low.
Pros and Cons: Shopify vs. Squarespace
No website builder is ideal— they all have pros and cons that will affect which one you choose. Based on the overall features of both Shopify and Squarespace, here are the most prominent upsides and downsides to both.
Pros and Cons: Shopify
- dedicated ecommerce platform
- over 100 available themes for desktop and mobile-ready sites
- detailed and customizable business tracking metrics
- inventory management from multiple locations
- user profiles increase with pricing plans
- tons of free and low-cost plug-in applications
- ability to use multiple sales channels and accept global currency
- blogging and cataloging capabilities
- point-of-sale systems make transactions easy from anywhere
- unlimited cloud storage space
- recurring app fees and plan charges can become costly
- Shopify takes a percentage of all transactions, except for Shopify Pay
- no autosave feature can be problematic while building and updating
Pros and Cons: Squarespace
- over 100 templates; theme library is updated often
- platforms that support a variety of business models
- ecommerce tools and analytics; no limit on storage or transactions
- space for galleries and portfolios; great for artistic businesses
- built-in blogging and blog management tools
- domain transfer available
- click-and-drag and point-and-click for easy building
- SEO tools
- payments are seamless with Square POS integration
- can sell products, as well as schedule services and appointments
- limited theme customization
- no autosave feature
- 24/7 support doesn’t include phone support, only chat and email
For the cost and the offered features, Shopify is the winner in this matchup. The ability to customize your website on Shopify surpasses Squarespace's capabilities, and the more advanced business metrics alone make Shopify the stronger choice. Shopify users will appreciate having everything all in one place with an easy-to-navigate dashboard.
We've collected all this information for you to better make an informed choice between Shopify and Squarespace for your small business website. Since both builders offer a 14-day trial, you can check them out for yourself with no obligation to purchase a plan. If you're still deciding on a business model or trying to get your business named and branded, try these articles and tools for exploring your business interests, naming your business, and designing a unique logo. For more help getting your business up and running, you can check out these additional tools and articles: