Squarespace and Bluehost are two of the most well-known brands (and oldest) in the website building industry. They are both useful in their own ways. But if you are comparing Bluehost vs Squarespace – which is the best fit for your project?
Before we look at different tradeoffs between Bluehost and Squarespace we have to define exactly what Bluehost and Squaresapce are.
Squarespace is an all-in-one “hosted website platform.” A hosted website platform is where all the components needed for a website come in a single bundle with a single monthly price. It’s also know as a “website builder“.
Squarespace provides the software to manage your website content; they provide the designs and all functionality.
They provide add-ons & extensions for unique functionality. And most importantly, they also provide the hosting (aka the server where your website files live) & security all in one price. There is no way to self-host Squarespace on your own server – that would defeat their main point of maximum convenience (even though you can have email and custom domain name elsewhere) See Squarespace plans here.
Bluehost is a web hosting provider. As a web host, their core service is providing a space on a server for you to build your website with an assembly of other products & services. They bundle a lot of free software and tools (such as WordPress) with hosting features to make it easier to build your site. It’s a bit more inconvenient but you have maximum control.
But here’s an analogy that works –
Imagine you are looking for a place to live.
Squarespace is like buying a condominium. You own everything inside your condo. You can do whatever you want inside. The condo association takes care of the water, electricity, security and structural issues. They even have furnished unit options. However, you also have to abide by condo association rules. You are limited by their structure and you have to pay extra HOA fees.
Bluehost is like buying a house. You can do anything you want. As long as you are paying the mortgage, it’s your land. There’s no rules or limitations. But you have to take care of everything (or hire someone to take care of it). It’s also as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be.
|Domain||Bundled||Included w/ promo, but usually 3rd party|
|Add-On via Google||Included w/ hosting|
|Website Software||Bundled||Free options (like WordPress) available|
|Website Design||Bundled||Free options to custom options available|
|Website Features||Bundled w/ extensions||Free options to custom options available|
|Support||Chat & Email||Phone, email, chat w/ hosting (not software) problems|
|Security||Bundled||3rd party options available.|
|Learning Curve||Fast & Guided||DIY with some onboarding support.|
|Future-Proofing||Some Export Options||Total Data Control & Complete Export Options|
Hosted Platform vs. Hosting Company
To look at Bluehost vs. Squarespace directly – we’re going to look at what I think are the primary considerations for most new website owners. We’ll look at Bluehost and Squarespace in each section.
Remember that the primary tradeoff will be control / convenience. To get the convenient experience, there’s a tradeoff with control & features (since a hosted platform like Squarespace has to control the environment to provide the best experience).
If either Squarespace doesn’t have a feature or design you want, you can’t just add it. If you want to migrate to a new platform – you can’t just pick up, leave and start elsewhere with your exact same website.
When you run your website on Bluehost – you can do both those things. However, it’s also not as convenient as a hosted platform, since you are the one setting up and running the software.
That’s the core tradeoff to remember. But like I’ve mentioned in other website builder reviews, my website setup guide and my ecommerce platform reviews – it’s not the only tradeoff (which is what we’re gonna talk about).
Bluehost vs Squarespace Pricing
Squarespace has 4 paid plans. You can check out their plans here – though most of their plans are mainly differentiated by ecommerce & email features.
Keep in mind that with Squarespace – your premium plan includes hosting, customer support, designs, free domain, etc for a single website.
Bluehost allows a range of website software to be installed on all their plans, which are priced by the amount of resources allocated. Self hosted WordPress by far and away the most popular website software. It is 100% free software that you can install on any server (including Bluehost). Like Squarespace, they provide a free domain and free SSL certificate.
With self hosted WordPress software, you’re not only getting a cheaper price month to month (using a shared hosting plan), you are also getting the ability to have unlimited features, unlimited design options, unlimited bandwidth, and *unlimited websites* on most plans.
If you have two, three or more website ideas, you can put all of them on the same Bluehost account without paying more. With Squarespace (and direct competitors like Wix and Weebly & WordPress.com) – each new site is a new monthly cost.
Note how there’s no real price comparison between Squarespace & Bluehost. Look at the customization & email lines – it’s so much cheaper to use Bluehost + WordPress. Even factoring in Squarespace’s unlimited storage, etc – it’s just straight cheaper to self-host a single website on Bluehost. And’s that’s even including must-have plugins.
But those WordPress plugin needs are exactly why comparing pricing between Bluehost and Squarespace is like comparing apples and oranges. The big pricing asterisk with Bluehost is that there are a lot of things you aren’t paying for – but are still responsible for.
For pricing with Squarespace will generally be better for most users who just want to buy a website subscription and be done with it all.
However, for anyone trying to figure out the most cost-effective and best long-term deal to get a website, purchasing a hosting plan and building your website with WordPress (which Bluehost will automatically setup) represents a much better financial deal.
But it’s not always about numbers. Let’s move to the next set of considerations.
Onboarding & User Experience
“Onboarding” describes the process of moving a brand new customer from signup to active user.
In other words it’s helping new customer figure out your software. Nobody likes to purchase something and immediately hate it simply because they can’t figure it out.
Like I mentioned in my Squarespace review, Squarespace not only has much improved solid onboarding, they also have a fairly intuitive interface with a simple drag and drop setup.
Squarespace has a range of pre-loaded designs for different website types (ie, music, business lead-gen, portfolio, etc). To improve and customize the site, it still takes a bit of experimentation. But they have customer support on call to answer any questions.
Bluehost has some of the best onboarding of any hosting company, especially if you plan on using WordPress. Bluehost’s target market is beginner’s, bloggers, and first time website owners, so they try to streamline the setup process as much as possible rather than just giving you your account password and leaving you to it.
That said, it still is nowhere near as simple as Bluehost, because *you* still have to decide on everything. For example, you still have to work out connecting your domain to the right install.
You can email support for specific questions, but there’s no obvious “do this, then that” process after you install WordPress.
For a more typical website, Squarespace might be a better fit if you use one of their templates. From purchase to launch, Bluehost can’t really compete with Squarespace for ease of setup. However, if you don’t mind a short learning curve, Bluehost will give you more options and control over your website, even if the onboarding isn’t as easy.
A common myth in website building is that a “WordPress website” or “Squarespace website” or “Shopify site” is a specific web design or look. Too many customers choose or rule out a platform because they “don’t like the look.”
Here’s the thing – just because a software uses “themes” or “templates” as a base does not mean that you can’t have whatever design you want.
The look of a webpage is created with HTML/CSS. Any software that allows you to edit CSS is software that can generate nearly any design you can imagine.
When you use Bluehost, you can edit anything you want, including HTML / CSS because you have direct access to the actual files on the server.
However, Squarespace does not allow HTML/CSS editing except in their Professional plan. You have to make all changes with their software, which, in fairness, creates some pretty amazing designs.
This difference puts Bluehost ahead on design options. So let’s look at the three questions that I usually ask with platform’s designs.
The main three questions are –
- How accessible are their “plug & play” designs?
- What is the variety of their premium “plug & play” designs?
- How far can a professional developer/designer go with the design?
On question #1 – both have great, accessible plug & play designs. Squarespace has a variety of pre-loaded designs based on website type (real estate, music, portfolio, etc). Some are a bit dated, but others are pretty good.
For Bluehost, there are thousands of free WordPress designs that you simply select in the Appearance menu.
On question #2 – both have a pretty great variety of designs with Bluehost + WordPress providing the most options. For years now, professional designers/developers have created premium “off the shelf” WordPress theme options for WordPress to build any type of website.
There is only a small 3rd party marketplace for Squarespace templates.
For question #3 – both allow for designers (not developers) to do their thing with self hosted WordPress offering the greatest freedom (for better and for worse).
Squarespace is more designer / developer friendly than other hosted website builders (see HTML/CSS). There are plenty of professionals who will work with a Squarespace template, but (even though they might be HTML/CSS ninjas) they are more experts with Squarespace than HTML/CSS when working with Squarespace. In other words, if you have an amazing web designer, he/she might not be as good when building a website for Squarespace – since Squarespace requires Squarespace-specific design knowledge. Squarespace has a marketplace where you can find a Squarespace pro.
For design options, both have good options with different “flavors.”
Squarespace has freedom within their own design setup. If you like their system, then that’s where it starts and ends.
Self hosted WordPress offers unlimited choice & control, which is great, but can create problems of its own with quality control, security and/or code conflicts.
Technical & Customization Features
The technical feature set illustrates the control/convenience tradeoff spectrum better than anything with these three options.
Squarespace holds the highest amount of control (scripts only on some plans and FTP / SSH via the developer platform) but also has the most convenient setup. It has built-in features (like Scheduling) that simply work. And the features that most users need/want are there. You can make changes and tweak many technical settings – but only those approved by Squarespace.
That said, the Squarespace system ensures that the features that they do have work – and they work well; no crashing or conflicts.
Bluehost allows unlimited technical & customization features. It’s also fairly convenient for beginners to add new functionality if you use Bluehost’s website builder / WordPress. Self hosted WordPress allows “plugins” which are little mini-apps that you can add to your WordPress install with the click of a button.
Whether it’s for better SEO functionality, setting up an ecommerce site, adding appointments, bulk uploading information, adding a social network, blogging platform or really anything you can think of – you can do it with a self hosted WordPress website on a Bluehost account.
On the downside, it’s also possible to create a code conflict in Bluehost and crash your website. It’s not common if you stick to well-supported plugins, but it is something that can happen.
It’s just like owning a house – you can build a deck or add shutters if you want to. Things will probably be fine, but if you accidentally damage your house – it’s on you to fix.
On this consideration – there’s no real overall winner. It’s all about what’s best for you.
SEO & Marketing
Marketing & SEO considerations are very similar to the technical considerations.
Both WordPress and self hosted are “good” for marketing & SEO in that they generate well-coded, crawlable, HTML & CSS.
As outlined in my Squarespace review, Squarespace does well with built-in marketing tools. Their pages are crawlable. But from my professional experience, Squarespace website are not as ideal SEO or social marketing purposes if you are running a very large content or ecommerce site. If SEO & social are not your primary marketing means or if you are running a smaller (less than 200 pages) site, this consideration may not matter much.
In fact, there are plenty of other caveats.
Squarespace has a growing collection of in-house marketing “extensions” that are easy to install and sync with other business tools. They even have an in-house SEO tool. But even with Squarespace’s extensions you can’t do all the SEO or technical marketing work. On the upside, for many beginner / small websites, implementing tags & technical fixes are not (and should not) be high priority.
The best thing you can do is publish quality content that gets linked to and shared by lots of people (and will not crash under sudden massive popularity). In that case, Squarespace both allow you to do that.
If you want to do all the marketing things – a Bluehost website will allow even beginners to implement highly advanced tactics ranging from implementing tags, tracking data to advanced SEO changes to running email opt-ins, schema, a/b tests and anything you could possibly want to do.
So again, with marketing features the “winner” really depends on your priority. If your priority is straightforward, user-friendly publishing then Squarespace do that well.
If you want/need a complete technical marketing toolset – then you’ll need a self hosted WordPress website on Bluehost.
Customer Support & Service
No matter who you are or what you’re building – you’ll likely need customer support.
Squarespace offers more traditional customer support via support tickets. They also offer email, chat and knowledge base support.
When you run a website on a hosting company’s servers, you go to your hosting company for technical issues and Google/forums for other issues. I’ve reviewed a bunch of hosting companies and service levels/approaches vary wildly. Bluehost generally has solid beginner support via lots of different channels.
That said, even if you have excellent hosting support, your self hosted WordPress site is inherently unique.
Since Squarespace operates a hosted platforms – their customer service has fewer variables to work with. They know that you can only customize your site so much, thus potential problems are limited.
If you have a highly customized self hosted WordPress website with lots of plugins and theme edits, you will have to go through a troubleshooting process no matter how good Bluehost’s support is.
If you are comfortable problem-solving and troubleshooting, a Bluehost site with a widely adopted software like WordPress will be the best fit.
Otherwise, Squarespace will have a better setup due the integration of service with their product.
Speed, Backups, Security & Maintenance
Related to customer support are the issues of speed, security, and maintenance.
If you are using Squarespace – these are not your problems. They take care of all three as part of the bundled deal.
If you are using Bluehost, you’ll need to regularly update your WordPress install and plugins. Additionally, you’ll need to install a basic security plugin and understand what makes your site fast/slow.
None of these topics require a developer or deep technical knowledge, but they are topics that you need to be aware of.
Going back to the house analogy – it’s like changing the air filter monthly and setting a security system. They aren’t complicated, but they are your responsibility. My post on essential plugins for WordPress is a good resource.
Bluehost vs Squarespace Conclusion
Bluehost and Squarespace are well-known brands for good reasons. They have both made getting a website so much easier than it used to be.
They are both good choices for certain projects. If you value control over convenience and you have the time for the learning curve – then go with Bluehost + WordPress. Use my website setup guide here.