First, a bit of background. Over just the past few years, website costs have plummeted and the technology to get a website from idea to reality has blossomed. Whether you are using a text editor and uploading to the Amazon cloud; hosting your own site powered by WordPress or using a drag and drop website builder, there’s never been an easier time to create a website.
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, they live on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. This is in contrast to solutions where you buy, install and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. That’s not a good or bad thing. But it is something to be aware of when you’re choosing one of them as a solution…since it affects your website both long and short term.
|Key Strength||Designs & Templates||Simplicity & Ease of Use|
|Key Complaint||Price for Value||Advanced Features for Large Site|
|Best for…||Portfolios & Creatives||Small Sites & Online Stores|
|Current Promotion||Get Current Promo||Get Current Promo|
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
Using a site builder is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
Squarespace and Weebly as a group compete with options like WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way down to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file. Make sense? Awesome, let’s dive into the comparison.
Otherwise, we’ll look specifically at pricing, onboarding/user experience, design features, technical features, marketing features, and customer support.
Comparing pricing between Squarespace and Weebly can be tough because their tiers are completely different. Weebly has tiers based on technical and eCommerce features. Squarespace pricing has tiers based the on the number of users, email , and other featurs. And Weebly has a free plan.
Squarespace basically removes an email option from the Personal plan, and then adds transaction free ecommerce to the Basic Commerce. You get a different suite of ecommerce tools with Advanced Commerce.
Weebly has an excellent Personal plan. The Professional plan adds HD audio & video & forum functionality. The Performance Plan folds in a lot more eCommerce functionality for building an online store. Weebly’s free version has solid feature set that you can use to build your store on a yoursite.weebly.com subdomain – and then upgrade to a premium plan with custom domain options when done.
The short version is that Weebly offers the most features for the price and fewest real caps at each tier. Weebly’s starter tier is a particularly attractive tier for most small business and personal sites.
Squarespace offers solid value on each tier and is particularly competitive with Weebly on the top tier due to the included SSL certificates and advanced features.
Weebly generally does better on pricing upfront value for most starter sites. However, the most important thing here is for you to write down your needs & goals – evaluate each tier based on that – rather than looking at features that you may never use.
*Reminder – these costs are all very different than if you are looking at building your own site with WordPress or a something else. Part of the point of website builders is the bundled pricing where hosting and software costs are added together – and are priced per site. It’s possible to get many custom websites with unlimited functionality for much cheaper if you build it yourself using separate hosting & software.
Onboarding & User Experience
No matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”
Onboarding is the process of guiding you past that point. In theory, a huge selling point of website builders is that they have a near-zero learning curve. They have a straightforward process from website concept to website reality.
On this point, Weebly wins in my experience – and Squarespace lagging a bit due to their attempts to please both a web developer / web designer audience and DIYers. I love how Weebly has a way for you to immediately segment yourself by type of website. They also offer plenty of unintrusive info buttons, pop-ups, a checklist, and an email sequence to make sure you’re on track.
Squarespace sort of drops you into their interface after choosing a design. The interface is fairly intuitive, but it takes some clicking to figure out where everything is, how stuff works, and what to do next.
Squarespace has greatly improved its onboarding email sequence though – so props to that.
Weebly has the blend of education and layering of builder features that makes sense to me. But, if you like having all the options and functionality fully visible, then you’ll feel comfortable with Squarespace.
Part of the overall value of website builders is web design.
Design is hard. And it matters – a lot. A lot of people can spot a good looking website but have a harder time figuring out how to get there. Using a template for a foundation and then customizing it is a good way to get the site you want without paying for a custom design.
On this point, Squarespace does really well. Their platform is all about design (their tagline is “Build It Beautiful) and you can tell. The front and backends look and feel beautiful.
Squarespace has a diverse set of templates that are built so that they do become unique with some photography and color scheming. They look good on a mobile device and have plenty of customization options.
One quick aside with Squarespace website options is available imagery. If you do not have high resolution, professional imagery to replace the Squarespace template imagery…you’re site will not look as good. Squarespace’s templates are only as good as your photography.
Weebly has a diverse range of templates. They are solid, but even as a non-designer, I can tell that they are more functional than anything. With Weebly, your site will be fine. And, if you want to dig under the hood, you can always edit the HTML/CSS directly.
Squarespace wins on design…if you have the imagery to fill their templates. If you want solid, functional, nice designs – you’ll probably like Weebly.
Technical features are all the web development best practices that don’t really matter…until they matter a lot (especially if you decide at some point to work with a professional). I’m talking about generating clean URLs, editable metadata, allowing page-level redirects, etc.
On this point, Squarespace and Weebly are both good. They both have things they could do better – and neither is as good as a self-hosted site. They both have things they do particularly well.
For Weebly, they have plenty of front end tools. They automatically generate permalinks and well-coded HTML. Squarespace offers more access to advanced tools, especially via their developer platform. They both have a content management system that is fine, along with their blogging platform.
In Field of Dreams , Kevin Costner’s character famously says “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, that is not true about websites. Just like any business, you have to actively promote and market your website for anyone to show up.
Marketing features like custom metadata, open graph information, Schema markups, email signups, share buttons, landing pages, social media, etc all make marketing your site a lot easier.
For overall marketing features, both Weebly and Squarespace do well. Squarespace requires some workarounds for custom metadata and can be hit or miss with Open Graph information. But overall both have the tools to do the job.
This point transfers as well to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – which is my wheelhouse. Both allow you to execute on fundamentals like keyword usage, crawlability, etc. However, if my client had a heavy emphasis on organic traffic, I would encourage Weebly first followed by Squarespace based primarily on SEO tool versatility – not on the idea that one is “better for SEO” than another.
Support & Service
Both have knowledgebases and customer support. Weebly do phone during business hours, in addition to email tickets and customer forums. Squarespace does not have phone support, but they do have 24/7 live chat and email.
If phone support is important to you, then I’d rule out Squarespace. If not, Squarespace does offer solid hours and quick response.
Company Structure & Future
I’ve been actively observing the website building & technology industry for more than 8 years now. The most underrated factor in choosing a vendor for your own business is the structure & incentives of the actual company. Marketing departments can say whatever they want in the short-term, but for a long-term (more than a year) partnership, you need a company whose structure matches your own business goals.
Yes – that is vague and conceptual. But here’s how it applies to both these companies.
Squarespace is a private company funded by venture capital that is soon to go public. This type of company is usually pursuing marketshare & user growth above all else. Anything that grows user base is good. The upside is that there are usually no limits to investment. You can expect lots of tools and love and support. The downside is that once they are public, they will have a very short runway before getting profitable. Some tech companies have found routes to profitability without slashing services, but others have not. That remains a key risk.
Weebly is a private company that was recently acquired by Square, a payments company. As a subsidiary of another company, Weebly will be valuable as part of a whole group of products. The upside is that users will get access to lots of unique features & partnerships. You can expect good plan prices and customer support. The downside is that Weebly is only valuable to Square if it drives growth to other Square products (ie, eCommerce store payments). If it doesn’t, then Weebly will just kind of slowly die of benign neglect.
Squarespace vs Weebly Conclusion
If you decide that using an all-inclusive website builder is right website building tool for you, then I would get out of the mindset of finding “the best” – and instead think through what you need now – and what you hope to do in the future.