Despite the fact that I’m very involved with the worlds of Shopify and Squarespace—site building, shop-building, ecommerce, etc—I tend to mix these two names up. Why? Well, I suppose because I frequently see advertisements for the both of them, and they’re the two big “S” names in building software.
While it’s true these two companies overlap, they’re also pretty different. Shopify is the most established commercial name in ecommerce software, having facilitated over $82 billion in sales since its founding in 2006.
Squarespace provides easy website building and was founded in 2003. It may not be the single most popular website builder (we don’t have exact numbers for these things, to be honest), but it’s certainly one of the most recognizable brands.
Both companies can claim, as part of their popularity, a lot of big names that have signed onto their services. A couple of Shopify’s big clients include Kylie Jenner’s company and Nestle.
Squarespace, focusing more on an appeal to creatives, has Idris Elba and Keanu Reeves under its belt.
Woah. Clearly, Shopify and Squarespace are leaders in their respective fields. Suppose these two big names were to clash—who would win?
This isn’t a hypothetical, of course. Website-builders almost always extends into ecommerce, which means shop building. While pretty much all the popular easy website creators advertise ecommerce functions, Squarespace is unique in its core focus on freelancers, creatives, and small businesses.
So there’s the overlap, and the interesting competition it produces. Let’s check it out.
Pricing and Features Comparison
|Price / mo.||$29/mo||$26/mo|
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Let’s look first at prices and the features you get for them.
Squarespace’s prices are a tad more complicated in relation to Shopify’s.
Squarespace has two types of plans, one for ecommerce and another for websites, and each type has two tiers. You’d think that because we’re comparing to Shopify, we’d only need to look at these two Squarespace plans. Nope.
Squarespace’s “Business” tier for normal sites also has ecommerce functionality.
This means you actually can get ecommerce software through Squarespace for the starting price of $18 a month. If you do so, you’ll suffer a 3% transaction fee, but you can add pop-ups, sell unlimited products, accept donations, get a free domain, and basically use a full ecommerce suite (including inventory tracking, order management, etc).
If you want to use the “online store” plans, you get a few more perks in addition to all of the above: you can entirely remove transaction fees, get unlimited contributors, access better commerce metrics, use label printing, get a secure checkout on your own domain, add customer accounts or subscriptions, and much more.
Of course, some perks are reserved for different tiers, but with a range of $18 to $40 a month (billed annually—these are pricier if paid monthly), Squarespace manages to provide a ton of ecommerce tools and perks.
Now for Shopify.
As far as the main plans go, an entry level plan starts you off with everything you need and the larger plans essentially add some tools and perks (particularly shipping perks). Basic features include unlimited products and order creation, the full store-builder software, discount codes, sales channels, and so on.
You’re limited in the staff accounts you can take on regardless of your tier, and people on the first tier can’t use gift cards or access advanced reports.
In my experience, the store building software as well as product, order, coupon, and discount creation are very robust with Shopify. You can edit things with a really good degree of detail, and it all comes out of the box.
This is also true for Squarespace in my experience—Squarespace doesn’t simplify or reduce the details you can manage in your store, though it’s not fully on Shopify’s level.
Squarespace offers a slight advantage in having a single-page checkout option. Shopify doesn’t, even if you’re using Advanced Shopify. This isn’t a huge failure, but is surprising from a leading brand (as you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to purchase).
As far as shipping goes, both companies offer some perks and discounts, but in different ways.
Shopify’s shipping discounts are hefty, up to 64% for Basic Shopify and 74% for Advanced Shopify. Though you won’t necessarily get these amounts every time, they’re substantial discounts that make it way more attractive for customers to order your products.
In addition, all accounts get to print shipping labels, and the latter two plans have USPS Priority Mail Cubic pricing—this would charge packages based on size, not weight (under certain parameters) which can significantly lower prices for sellers.
These things are part of what give Shopify such tremendous appeal to businesses of all sizes. How does Squarespace fare?
The “website” plan with ecommerce functionality doesn’t really have preset shipping perks. However, the “online store” plans do: both get bulk label printing, as with Shopify. The highest tier has an advanced shipping calculator, which is useful—however, all of Shopify’s plans have shipping calculators.
Squarespace’s “Advanced Online Store” plan lets you apply free shipping discounts to products automatically at checkout. You can’t set shipping rates per-product, so a free shipping option would be made available to all customers—it’s a little complicated and you need to be in the Advanced plan to exert the amount of control over it most desirable.
The less advanced Squarespace plans will let you create discounts that customers can apply to shipping—thus less directly offsetting the charges. It’s a bit complicated: you can read here for more detailed information.
Unfortunately, Shopify and Squarespace take some transaction fees. Theses vary plan to plan: Shopify’s highest tier has the lowest rate at 2.4% + $0.30 for online purchases via card. Rates differ if you’re using Shopify’s processor to take payments in person, plus there are fees for using any payment provider other than Shopify Payments.
Squarespace only takes transaction fees for its Business plan (as mentioned), the second “Websites” tier. Either of the two “Online Stores” plans remove transaction fees, so you don’t need to go far to avoid them.
Here’s one last thing I find worth mentioning: dropshipping. Shopify is an industry leader partially because of how easy it makes dropshipping. Dropshipping basically means you, a store owner, would have a third party (running a warehouse, presumably) ship a product ordered by a customer directly to the customer. This means the customer would use your store, but you wouldn’t package off the product yourself.
The problem is you can only use the Printful integration with the Advanced store plan (the highest tier) and people on Shopify can use Oberlo at any tier, plus Oberlo is completely free to use as long as you have a Shopify account (though you can upgrade for higher Oberlo tiers).
So to sum things up, Shopify and Squarespace both have really good features, and Squarespace has generally more affordable pricing between its tiers. Squarespace even offers some tools that Shopify doesn’t until later tiers, which can be more affordable, and removes transaction fees early on.
When it comes to shipping, however, Shopify makes discounts much easier to work with and automatic. Squarespace users can access discounts, and the Advanced plan may be a better deal at times, but not always. Plus, Shopify is absolutely superior for dropshipping.
These things are important, but, when you’re setting up an online shop, appearance and extra, non-default tools are really important parts of ecommerce functionality as well.
Templates and Apps
Templates and design are very important for both Shopify and Squarespace—both market themselves as great places for beautiful storefronts and sites. If you’re looking into ecommerce, having an online store that looks great to your customers is highly important.
Both companies offer a range of templates, and both are pretty good.
Shopify offers a few dozen themes, most of them paid.
Squarespace offers a similar number of themes, but there’s a catch.
The catch is that most of Squarespace’s themes are for ordinary sites. If you go to online store templates, there are only a few to choose from. You can add a store to another template, but it’s more of a hassle than it needs to be.
In my opinion, both Shopify and Squarespace have beautiful themes. I’d say I generally prefer Squarespace’s themes and find Shopify’s look a bit similar—that’s subjective, however. Because Shopify’s themes are all geared specifically for stores, I’d say Shopify wins out for themes/templates.
However, as far as editing and site-creating goes, I’d give Squarespace the award. It’s not a huge difference, but Squarespace places heavy emphasis on style and design, and this investment of energy has returned very well.
Next, the app store is uniquely important when you’re using an ecommerce platform. It’s nice to get as much “out of the box” as you can, but you can’t always count on that.
Shopify leads when it comes to apps and installations, in my opinion. Squarespace builds in a lot of integrations into the platform, which means you don’t use an app store for installations. Some integrations are included by default, and others can be enabled if you’re willing to pay.
You can view the full list of integrations Squarespace supports here, but it’s a decent enough list. Certainly, all the popular apps and add-ons are supported by Squarespace, and in some ways it can be really cost-efficient when they’re included.
Shopify is different. Shopify has a more traditional app store structure for its installations. This might sound like a worse deal, but I don’t think it is—however, it’s true that it can at times be more expensive.
The benefit is that you can access more than with Squarespace. Admittedly, most of what you’d be interested in is included on Squarespace, but Shopify’s app store is vibrant and evolving. You can find more niche integrations, plus a lot of popular ones are sometimes free.
Ultimately, you’ll need to look at which apps you think will be most useful. I prefer Shopify for apps, despite that it can be pricier, but others may find Squarespace both easier and more affordable depending on what they need to install.
This leads us to our next major point of consideration: ease of use.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is a huge deal for SaaS (software as a service) companies. It’s all the rage these days—popular software and websites try to be sleek, modern, clean, and usable. Squarespace and Shopify in particular really market themselves as leaders in user-friendly creative tools.
Here’s Squarespace, for example, advertising its easy product management:
And this would be Shopify’s equivalent:
Both companies understand the need for ease of use quite well. Luckily for us, both companies live up to their own hype.
Shopify and Squarespace both incorporate a lot of features and allow users to edit things to a high degree of detail, but make it clean and straightforward at the same time—a more impressive feat than you might think.
Here is the overview of SquareSpace’s dashboard
and here is the overview of Shopify’s dashboard
On this note, I think Squarespace does a little better.
Editing store details is about equally easy and robust on both companies (though Shopify is a little more in-depth), but editing design is better on Squarespace. It’s not just the templates you have access to, but the tools and capabilities you get for editing those templates.
Something I like a lot about Shopify and Squarespace is they make things easy for advanced users. Specifically, both companies let customers edit code directly if they choose to. This can allow for a great degree of detail and control if you or someone on your team has programming knowledge.
The drawback here is that anyone wishing to code on Shopify must learn Shopify’s own design code, Liquid. An experienced programmer can pick it up, but it’s still more of a hassle than should be necessary.
In short, I give credit to both companies for making things easy for developers and advanced users to take full control of their site should they wish. This mitigates the dumbing-down effects an “easy” builder application can have. Specifically, Squarespace is easier for developers who want to edit directly.
To put all that together, both Squarespace and Shopify are super easy to use and retain a degree of control without sacrificing much usability.
The nuances of this would be that Shopify is slightly better for in-depth store details, and Squarespace is better for design. Plus, Squarespace is easier for programmers, though both Shopify and Squarespace are programmer friendly.
I’d award Squarespace for user-friendliness here, but things are so close it’s tough to call accurately.
As I’ve made a point of stressing, even “easy” to use software needs good customer support. Technical difficulties happen even to the best, and even advanced users may need information quickly to onboard to a new platform.
Both Shopify and Squarespace have truly excellent customer support. However, I have to say that Shopify goes the extra mile, so I’ll start with them.
The first reason why I say this is because Shopify grants you access to representatives via live chat, email/ticket system, and phone. Plus, in my experience, the reps have been responsive and helpful.
It’s more than effective representatives, however. Shopify has a ton of on-site resources. Some of it is the essential stuff you’re used to seeing, like the knowledge base (also known as the Help Center).
The knowledge base is as comprehensive as the best of them, with a huge breadth of article topics. Seriously, you can find even your oddly specific questions on the Help Center.
Shopify has a blog, which is pretty common, but it has educational resources that are more unique and in-depth. One example would be Shopify Academy, which has free courses that could be useful to beginners. The other main example would be Shopify’s community forum, which lets you tap into Shopify’s large user base and is useful for unique problems or advice.
Another would be Shopify Guides, which is a decent collection of free ebooks that have general business and ecommerce advice. Shopify’s two podcasts are similar, a sort of supplement for those who are interested, and the business encyclopedia isn’t something I identify as particularly useful but is nice to have anyway.
Shopify Polaris is a super in-depth guide to Shopify’s design standards. It’s a relatively unknown resource, but can be a life saver if you’re building sites for clients (or even just for yourself).
Lastly, Shopify provides some free tools that can come in handy for beginners.
So, yeah. Wow. Shopify clearly has a ton of resources, and even if some are fluffy, a lot aren’t. How on earth can Squarespace live up to this?
Well, Squarespace starts with pretty good customer representatives and an accessible means of contacting them: live chat or email. Unfortunately, there is no phone support yet.
It’s okay though, because representatives are pretty responsive and helpful via live chat or email.
The cornerstone of Squarespace’s onsite resources is its knowledge base.
Squarespace’s knowledgebase isn’t as in-depth as Shopify’s, but it’s still pretty great. It also includes video tutorials for those who prefer it to reading.
Squarespace offers a lot more aside from its knowledge base. For example, Squarespace has webinars, a blog (again, this is common), and a forum. I find the forum to be less robust than Shopify’s, but still a nice asset.
Squarespace also brings a lot to the table when it comes to customer support and resources. The reason I grant the win to Shopify is it has more options for contacting representatives, plus it has more resources and the resources tend to be more in-depth.
Nonetheless, Squarespace is a close second to Shopify, so close that I couldn’t consider customer support a significant difference between the two in terms of appeal.
Security and Reliability
Now, for the last item on our checklist: security and reliability. You don’t need me to tell you why security or reliability are important to running a business online, so let’s jump in.
Neither of our contenders say a ton about their security, but this doesn’t mean they lack it. They essentially remark on their certifications for processing payments and customer information, which sounds really great until you realize it represents a standard (as opposed to something above a standard).
Squarespace is significantly better in outlining its security practices, though it’s slightly out of the way.
I suggest checking out the page itself if you want to see the full details for yourself, but the short version is that yes, Squarespace takes all the appropriate measures. Firewalls, internal monitoring, secure servers, DDoS attack prevention protocols, etc.
And of course, Squarespace and Shopify provide SSL for all accounts.
Now, as far as performance goes, I’ve only had good experiences with each company. This includes not just uptime and site speed, but the day to day usage of the software. I’ve not dealt with frozen pages, site crashes, or anything of serious concern.
These companies are both industry leaders with large thanks to their reliable performance. As far as security goes, Squarespace clearly is more transparent, but I don’t think it’s necessarily more secure than Shopify.
Keeping in mind that Shopify services some of the largest companies in the world (and yes, enterprise-grade security will of course be higher than that of normal accounts—nonetheless, the point stands) and has facilitated tens of billions in transactions, it’s security is probably pretty strong.
So I can’t really draw a clear winner out of these two. They both perform very well and are, as far as we know, quite secure.
Conclusion: Which do I Recommend?
It’s time to put everything we’ve talked about together. Which is better—Squarespace, or Shopify?
We all know there’s no one size that fits all, and Shopify and Squarespace clearly have some different pros and cons.
Both of them are secure and perform reliably. Both have excellent customer support, although I think Shopify takes the lead.
As far as ease of use goes, both are excellent, but Shopify is better at store details and Squarespace is better at site design. Plus, Squarespace is easier for programmers who want to edit a site’s code.
As far as templates go, Shopify has a larger selection of online store-specific templates but Squarespace has a larger selection of templates in total—they just may require some extra steps to turn into stores. Design capacity is better with Squarespace, however.
Squarespace’s integrations are mostly included in the Squarespace infrastructure and there is no app store. This can at times make things easier and more affordable, but Shopify’s app store has more odd fixes and options (although it can be pricey at times).
As far as price and overall go features go, things get dicey. Squarespace is of course much cheaper, and Shopify’s range is much pricier (though it starts at a pretty acceptable point in my opinion).
Squarespace is very well-featured for its comparatively low prices, which at first can make it seem a better deal. However, Shopify is far better in bringing easy to use shipping discounts and its dropshipping capacity is far better than Squarespace’s.
Plus, Shopify is better for those who wish to scale their stores, which explains part of the prices, and the tools you get out of the box can be very in-depth if you wish them to be (though Squarespace’s aren’t bad either).
Although Squarespace foregoes some of the things that make Shopify more expensive than it needs to be, such as putting basic features at higher tiers and charging transaction fees, Shopify is still an overall stronger ecommerce option.
I’d have to say that overall Shopify gets my recommendation. For those selling digital products for whom shipping is not a major cost, Squarespace might be better. But for anyone planning on shipping regularly and/or in large quantities, Shopify is easily the better option. It’s also a better option for those who are particularly anal about controlling store details—Squarespace can be very detailed as well, but Shopify applies a very practical rigor if its desired.
But hey, if you’re unsure, you can always try them out! Shopify has a 14-day free trial and Squarespace lets you stay on a free trial until you’re ready. Go ahead and get out there, my fellow go-getters!