Shopify vs. Squarespace: how to choose the best option for your business

Starting a business is hard. Starting an online business is even harder. In the never ending sea of online businesses, it can be so difficult to get your store recognized among the millions of other business owners out there. So continuing with this series for bloggers and business owners, I wanted to take some time today to talk about the best options for hosting your online shop.

I get asked by aspiring business owners almost daily about who built my website for my brand. When I tell them it was me, they are floored. They then often ask me what platform I used and how I did it. All of these questions inspired me to revamp my blog and turn it into what you see here: a resource for other business owners and bloggers.

I’ve tried Etsy, Blogspot, Wix, Shopify, Wordpress, and Squarespace in the last several years. I took my business online about year ago, but was doing in-person sales almost a year prior to that. I still do most of my sales offline through wholesale and individual sales, but once more people started asking about where they could purchase my products back in 2016, I knew I had to create an e-commerce website for people to order from.

From my experience with Wix, I knew I wanted something that offered a bit more customization. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just knew I wanted more freedom and flexibility in my designs. I had tried my hand at Etsy, but found that the keywords and SEO were just as frustrating as Instagram’s ever-changing algorithms, so I went with Shopify.

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I love Shopify for several reasons. It’s so easy to use that anyone with little to no background for web design can set up a beautiful site that will be visually appealing customers. It wasn’t until later that I found Squarespace, which is what I use for my blog currently.

Regardless of which platform you choose for your business, you absolutely need to purchase a domain name before you fully launch. That will immediately eliminate the generic www.{your brand name}.shopify.com web address and make your brand look much more professional. All of my domain names were purchased through Go Daddy, but I’m currently looking into transferring these to self-hosting through Site Ground (more on that later). I pay for my domain names annually, at $14.99/year. Go Daddy isn’t a bad option at all in my opinion, but if you prefer to be self-hosted then definitely go with Site Ground. If you want to start with GoDaddy, you can sign up here.

In this post I’m going to breakdown the differences between Shopify and Squarespace — the pros, cons, what they’re used for, and which one you should go with for your online business needs. Just to reiterate, I use both of these platforms every day and have become very familiar with the two of them and love them both, but for different reasons. Here’s what you need to know:

Shopify

Shopify is perfect for you if you’ve never run a website before and have a product or service to sell. It’s incredibly easy to set up and doesn’t require a huge learning curve. When your customers ask you if they can purchase your products or services online, it is crucial you have an easy-to-navigate online store ready for them to go to.

Shopify offers plenty of visually appealing templates to choose from, and they are all fairly customizable. You can use additional graphic design tools like Canva to customize your site even further, but if you don’t have the time or patience to go that route, Shopify still has enough features that you can use to make a beautiful online store.

It is super easy to manage your inventory, track your sales, and ship out your orders. What I also love about this platform is their app that you can download right to your phone that essentially has all the same features as their website version. This allows you to easily manage your shop from your phone which is a huge bonus.

As far as price point is concerned, Shopify offers a few options. You are granted a 14 day free trial before you fully commit, but after that you need to choose a plan to fully publish your site. I currently pay monthly for my Shopify site at a rate of $29/month for the basic plan. Rates for the other plans then start at $79 or $299, but if you are a new business, the basic plan gives you everything you need. There are zero transaction fees to pay under any of the plan options, but credit card rates start at 2.9% + 30 cents for the basic plan.

Squarespace

Oh how I love this platform. Unlike Shopify, Squarespace comes with a bit more of a learning curve. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s going to take a bit more time to learn the ins and outs of this platform. If you have some experience in building a website, you may feel comfortable taking on Squarespace. If you want to offer your customers more than just an e-commerce website, then this is definitely a better option. For example, if you want to run a successful blog and an online store together, Squarespace is my first pick. If your sole purpose is just to sell products or services, then you might be better off choosing Shopify, although I do know plenty of business owners who have chosen to run their site through Squarespace and have been very happy with it.

Similar to Shopify, Squarespace offers a ton of beautiful templates that are all highly customizable. The design features are pretty outstanding in my opinion. You can manipulate very specific design features on this platform as compared to Shopify, where you’re slightly more restricted. You can also use additional graphic design tools like Canva here, though you might find Squarespace already has exactly what you’re looking for in many cases.

There are a few different apps that Squarespace offers. The only downside is you’ll have to download them separately — they have an app for your blog, your e-commerce store, your portfolio, and another one that allows you to view the analytics of your site. While it’s helpful there are mobile apps for Squarespace, it can be a little inconvenient to have multiple apps to manage everything.

As far as price point is concerned here, Squarespace also grants you a 14-day free trial before you publish your site. From there you have a few different options. Squarespace allows you to build a personal or business website, but if you are hoping to build an online store, you will obviously want to choose that option. If you are just looking for a basic plan, you can choose to either pay $26/month (billed annually), or pay $30 month to month. If you need more than just a basic plan, you’re looking at $40/month (billed annually), or $46 month to month.

One last thing I have to say about Squarespace is regarding their customer service. Recently on Instagram I talked about how I had an issue publishing one of my digital downloads. I like to think I’m pretty tech savvy and can usually troubleshoot most issues on my own, but after an hour of trying to figure out the issue, I opted for Squarespace’s chat support. The person I was connected to was extremely personable and helpful — something not all platforms offer. I haven’t ever needed to use Shopify’s customer support, but I’m sure they would be equally as helpful.

The Final Verdict

If you are looking for something that can be easily accessed from your phone, is simple to navigate, and will allow you to focus on selling a product or service, my best advice is to go with Shopify.

If you are looking for a platform that will allow you to go above and beyond in the creative design features of you shop, or if you plan on providing your customers/audience with more than just your products or services, AND you can take on a platform that requires a bit more of a learning curve, then Squarespace could be the right one for you.

If you still aren’t sure which platform you’d prefer, I recommend signing up for their free trials, playing around, and seeing what you are most comfortable with. If you have any questions about either platform, or need some help once you sign up, please feel free to leave a comment or send me and e-mail — I’d be happy to help!

I also just launched several custom design services here, so if you’re looking to take some extra work off your shoulders, I would be more than happy to design your Squarespace or Shopify store for you. If you’re interested, you can head to my design services page to check it out!

xx Elizabeth