Shopify vs Squarespace — Which is Better?

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Shopify vs Squarespace (the two logos together, side by side)

Shopify vs Squarespace: which is better? In this detailed comparison, we take an in-depth look at which of these leading website building tools is right for your project.

We’ve tested both platforms’ key features in depth — their templates, ecommerce tools, content management systems, SEO capabilities and much else besides — and in this post, we share all our findings in a friendly, jargon-free way.

So, read on to get a full overview of the pros and cons of both platforms — and do feel free to leave any thoughts or questions about either product in the comments section.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

On the face of it, Shopify and Squarespace look like similar tools. They let you create a website and they let you sell products (even if you don’t have any design or coding skills).

But they have a different history, and started life with different purposes.

Squarespace was initially created as a solution for building and maintaining content-based websites, whereas Shopify was specifically designed as a solution for making an online store.

With the addition of ecommerce to Squarespace’s feature set however, and an increase in the number of content-creation tools available for Shopify, the two platforms have become increasingly similar — and technically, you can now use either to create a content-driven website or sell products online.

But which one is better for your business?

Answering this question starts, helpfully, with another question…

Are you trying to build a ‘website’ or an online store?

When deciding between Squarespace and Shopify, the first question you need to ask yourself is this: what am I trying to build, a website or an online store?

Of course, an online store is technically a website too, but in this context, by ‘website’ I’m talking about an online presence where conveying information is the priority — for example, a blog, a news site, a brochure site, a magazine, a photography portfolio etc.

By ‘online store’ I mean something where selling products is the primary goal.

Let’s dive into the website-building stuff first.

Building a content-driven website

If your focus is on building an informative website, then design features and content management tools are going to be the priority — and it’s fair to say that Squarespace wins over Shopify in both areas.

Its templates are excellent; its content management system (CMS) is intuitive and easy to use; its photo editing and displaying tools are superb; and its blogging features are (on the whole) strong.

However, what you have to bear in mind with Squarespace is that it very much takes a ‘walled garden’ approach to website building.

By this, I mean that it’s a rather ‘closed-off’ system — integrating third-party apps is not always straightforward, and, unlike in Shopify, you don’t get full access to your site’s code.

Despite this, many users will find Squarespace a really good website builder for creating a content-driven site, because:

The bottom line is that, used well, Squarespace can help you put a professional-looking site very quickly, and it gives you a LOT of nice ways to display content — especially blog posts and images.

Now, although Shopify has traditionally been weaker in this area, thanks to its release of a new theme format and a drag-and-drop editor, it is catching up (more on this later in the comparison).

But as things stand, Squarespace still remains the better option for creating content-driven sites.

But what about building online stores?

Building an online store

When it comes to the ecommerce features of both products, as you might expect, Shopify’s heritage as an online store building solution generally beats Squarespace’s.

The Shopify ecommerce feature set is considerably more extensive, with better-developed selling tools and some key features that are not yet available from Squarespace.

Unlike Squarespace it offers:

I’ll go through all the above in depth in a moment.

But first, let’s take a quick look at pricing, because how much ecommerce functionality you get with both Squarespace and Shopify depends very much on how much you’re prepared to pay.

Pricing

Key differences between Squarespace plans

Squarespace offers four monthly pricing plans:

You can also make use of a two-week free trial (with extensions available if you need more time to finish your site).

Significant discounts for all of the above are available if you purchase a plan on an annual basis. If you do, then the above four plans work out at $16, $23, $27 and $49 per month respectively (see screenshot below).

There’s also a ‘Squarespace Enterprise’ plan available, which, as its name suggests, is aimed at more ‘corporate’ users. This plan provides additional levels of support with design, SEO and security; the pricing for it is negotiable based on requirements.

In terms of the key differences between the main Squarespace pricing plans aimed at more ‘regular’ users, the key things to watch out for are as follows:

Key differences between Shopify plans

Shopify offers five monthly plans:

As with Squarespace, a free Shopify trial is available. You can access this via this link.

Significant discounts are available if you pay upfront for your Shopify plan. Depending on your location, you can get 10% to 50% off your first year of Shopify by paying upfront for one year; thereafter, 20% and 25% discounts can be attained by paying upfront for 2 or 3 years respectively.

The key differences to watch out for between Shopify plans are as follows:

Point-of-sale (POS) functionality — which lets you use Shopify to sell not just online but in physical locations too — is included on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one.

However, to access advanced POS features, you’ll need to pay an additional fee of $89 per month, per location.

These include multi-location selling, the ability to work with an unlimited number of staff, buy-and-collect options and more.

(I’ll discuss POS in more depth shortly.)

Transaction fees and credit card fees

On top of the standard pricing plans, there are transaction fees and credit card fees to consider.

Transaction fees are a percentage fee of your sales charged by your ecommerce platform (in this case Squarespace or Shopify).

Credit card fees are a percentage fee of your sales charged by the company you choose to process your credit card payments, otherwise known as a ‘payment gateway.’

With Shopify, you have the choice of either using Shopify Payments — Shopify’s built in payment processor — or a third-party payment gateway.

If you use Shopify Payments, you’ll avoid transaction fees entirely on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one (the latter applies a hefty 5% fee to all transactions).

You will still be charged credit card fees when using Shopify Payments, however. These vary by country, but in the USA you’re looking at between 2.4% and 2.9% plus 30c per transaction, depending on your chosen Shopify plan.

If you use a third-party payment gateway to process your credit card transactions, you will pay Shopify a percentage of the transaction. On the ‘Basic’ plan or higher, this fee will be 0.5% to 2%, depending on plan; the ‘Starter’ plan involves a 5% transaction fee.

With Squarespace, transaction fees are only applied to its ‘Business’ plan — the rate is 3%. In terms of the the credit card fees, the rate is determined by either Stripe or PayPal (the two options provided by Squarespace for processing credit cards).

One thing to watch out for with regard to Shopify Payments is that you can only use it if you are selling from certain countries, namely:

Shopify users who are not based in a supported country will have to use a different payment gateway — but the good news is that over 100 external gateways integrate with Shopify.

And speaking of payment gateways…

Payment gateways

Shopify can be used almost anywhere and in most currencies, because it allows you to use over 100 ‘payment gateways’ (a payment gateway is a piece of software that that processes credit card transactions).

By contrast, Squarespace offers just two payment processing options — Paypal and Stripe.

While these will cater for a wide range of credit card types, and also let merchants in some countries accept staggered payments via AfterPay (known as Clearpay in the UK), it’s important to note that there is no Squarespace support for Google Pay.

US-based merchants who use Squarespace’s Point of Sale feature can also use Square to accept in-person payments (more on this shortly).

So overall, Shopify is the more attractive, professional option from a payment processing point of view — the flexibility when it comes to accepting payments is much greater.

Now, with our look at pricing and payments out of the way, let’s dig into the key features of Shopify and Squarespace and see how they compare.

Key features of Shopify and Squarespace

Interface / ease of use

Shopify and Squarespace’s interfaces aren’t a million miles apart in terms of layout — both give you a menu on the left hand side of the screen that you can use to get to different parts of the content management system (settings, site design, analytics etc.).

The right hand side of the screen can be used to edit content, view data, add products and so on.

On the whole I would say that Squarespace’s interface is currently the more elegant of the two, and is a bit easier to use than Shopify’s, especially where general content management is concerned.

Squarespace interface
The Squarespace interface

Its approach to setting up site navigation and its superb ‘layout engine’ — which allows you to drag and drop content into pages in a very user-friendly way — make it extremely easy to use.

And, with the recent release of its new ‘Fluid Engine’ drag-and-drop editor, Squarespace now provides users with unprecedented flexibility regarding how they lay out their site (see video below for a demonstration of how the new layout tool works).

Significantly, Fluid Engine allows for the creation of different versions of a site for desktop and mobile (something that Shopify doesn’t currently facilitate without coding).

Squarespace’s ecommerce features are arguably slightly easier to use too — but that said, this is probably because there are fewer of them available.

While by no means difficult to use, Shopify’s user interface is arguably not quite as slick or intuitive, and setting up pages with it can take a bit longer than in Squarespace.

That said, Shopify’s content management system has been improved considerably with the recent launch of its “Online Store 2.0” interface.

This new version of Shopify provides a drag-and-drop editor that lets you — in a similar way to Squarespace — use content sections and blocks to create highly customized, attractive page layouts.

This new interface is a big step up from Shopify’s old, text-focused, WYSIWYG editor; but even with the improvements made, my view is that Squarespace’s layout engine still remains the more flexible and intuitive tool for general presentation of content.

This is because Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor doesn’t let you edit individual pages. Instead, you use it to edit templates which you then apply to pages (with the core page content still being edited using a WYSIWYG editor).

If this sounds a bit confusing, you’re right, it is – but you do get used to it.

Now — and sticking with the topic of presentation — let’s take a look at templates.

Templates and visuals

As discussed above, Squarespace templates are gorgeous.

Although this is a subjective area, I feel they are more contemporary or varied in nature than the free templates available from Shopify.

And, as things stand, there are considerably more free templates to choose from in Squarespace — you can choose from over 140 bundled templates to Shopify’s 9.

Squarespace template (‘Paloma’)
Squarespace template (‘Paloma’)

And there’s definitely a ‘wow’ factor with certain Squarespace templates that sets them apart from similar website builders and ecommerce platforms.

You can browse all the Squarespace templates here.

However, a lot of the Squarespace templates — and this is in keeping with the issues discussed above regarding content presentation vs selling online — are geared towards users who want to blog, or showcase an art, music or photography portfolio.

The "Devoe" template
Many of Squarespace’s templates have a ‘portfolio’ focus.

Of the 140 or so Squarespace templates currently available, only a few are dedicated online store themes (that’s not to say, however, that you can’t sell products using the others — you might just have to play around with the design a bit more first).

Depending on your chosen Squarespace template, you’ll find lots of nice visual effects in play, with images and text that gracefully fade in and out as users scroll through a site.

Squarespace templates can be further enhanced, thanks to built-integrations with Unsplash and Getty images (stock photo sites that offer free and paid-for images respectively). These provide you with a very easy way to add stock images to your website — when adding a picture to a page, you can simply use a search box to find something suitable on either service.

Both integrations are great and are particularly helpful to bloggers who need to find strong images quickly to accompany their posts, or Squarespace designers who are working on sites for clients who have not supplied any photos.

The Unsplash integration is particularly welcome, given that the quality of its free images is in most cases pretty high.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Squarespace makes it really easy to create stunning video backgrounds on any page, either by uploading your own video or using a Youtube / Vimeo URL. A range of video playback speed options and colour filters let you further customize your video background.

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However, Shopify is by no means a slouch in the template / visuals department. The free Shopify templates are aesthetically pleasing and much better than a lot of the ‘out-of-the-box’ templates provided by competing platforms.

Additionally, if the 9 free Shopify templates don’t meet your requirements, there is a Shopify template store that you can buy a snazzier template from.

The template store gives you 88 paid Shopify themes to choose from, many of which contain variations. This means there is arguably a wider range of templates available from Shopify than Squarespace — so long as you are prepared to pay for them (prices vary but usually involve a one-off fee of between $200 and $350).

You can browse all the Shopify templates (free and paid) here.

The paid-for Shopify templates are similar in quality to the Squarespace ones, offering a wide range of layouts which include contemporary design features such as full-bleed content and video backgrounds.

And, as with Squarespace, you can make use of a library of royalty-free stock images to further enhance them.

Significantly, the Shopify and Squarespace themes are responsive, meaning that templates automatically resize themselves to suit the device they are being viewed on — mobile, tablet or desktop computer.

This gives both platforms a key advantage over competing platform Wix, which doesn’t currently offer truly responsive templates.

For me, the bottom line with templates is that both Shopify and Squarespace provide a wide range of attractive template options, with Squarespace — as you might expect having read this far! — being the more obvious choice for content-driven websites, and Shopify being the more obvious choice for those wishing to make an online store.

Let’s move on now to getting content in and out of both platforms.

Importing and exporting content

Squarespace

It’s easy enough to get content and products into Squarespace.

Helpful ‘wizards’ are provided to help you import pages, posts and other content from WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr; and, so long as you are on a ‘Business’ or ‘Commerce’ Squarespace plan, you can import products via CSV or, using an import tool, from Shopify, Etsy or Big Cartel.

When it comes to exports, you can export pages, posts and images to WordPress format, and this gives you a bit of flexibility should you ever wish to migrate your site.

There are limitations to watch out for when it comes to exporting products from Squarespace, however. Only physical and service products can be exported; a limit of three variants per product (color, size, material etc.) applies; product reviews won’t export; and you can only export up to 10,000 products.

This product export limit is fairly large and will be fine for many users — but if you’re planning on hosting a huge product inventory, or if you are dealing with products that come in a lot of shapes and sizes, you’ll find that the better option is Shopify.

Shopify

Shopify lets you import and export products easily enough via CSV (and, unlike Squarespace, doesn’t place any restrictions at all on exporting digital products).

For more extensive importing functionality — for example, bulk upload of digital products — third-party apps like FetchApp can be used.

Importing and exporting pages and blog posts isn’t really doable out of the box with Shopify (unless you’re on a Shopify Plus plan).

But again, third-party apps can help here (for example, the ExIm app gives you a good range of options for getting your content in and out of Shopify).

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in Squarespace and Shopify

Squarespace and Shopify both handle the basics of search engine optimization pretty well, giving you good control over all the key ‘on-page’ SEO elements.

Both platforms make it relatively easy to access and modify:

I’d argue that Shopify makes staying on top of SEO a little bit easier than Squarespace, however.

First, for all products and pages, Shopify generates a page title and meta description automatically based on the content of your page. A lot of the time — particularly where products are concerned — this often provides a very good starting point for SEO.

Squarespace doesn’t do this.

And I feel that Shopify handles URL redirection better than Squarespace, too.

(When you change a web page’s address, redirects tell search engines about the new URL and help protect your search rankings).

If you change a page’s URL, Shopify will immediately prompt you to create a 301 redirect to that page — and if you tick a checkbox, this is done automatically for you.

By contrast in Squarespace, if you change a page URL, you will have to manually create the 301 redirect (the process for which is a bit fiddly; and creating 301 redirects is quite easy to forget to do).

Shopify also gives you more control over your robots.txt file (which lets you specify which pages you want to exclude from indexing by search engines).

And significantly, you can integrate Yoast with Shopify — this is a popular SEO tool that assesses your pages from an SEO point of view and gives you an easy-to-action list of recommendations for improvements.

When it comes to the very technical aspects of SEO — Core Web Vitals (Google’s new site speed and stability requirements) and page speed — you have limited control over these with both Shopify and Squarespace. This is because both platforms use their own servers and proprietary code and templates.

So long as you don’t overdo it with web fonts and large images however, it does seem to be possible to meet Core Web Vitals standards with both platforms.

As for page speed, based on testing a variety of Squarespace and Shopify sites using Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool, I’ve found that Shopify is usually the winner here.

So overall, when it comes to SEO on Squarespace and Shopify, I’d say that Shopify has a slight edge, particularly where technical SEO is concerned — but there’s not a huge amount in it.

Point of sale (POS) in Shopify vs Squarespace

Point-of-sale functionality allows you to use card readers — and other selling hardware — in conjunction with your online store, to sell in a physical location (a retail outlet, market stall, event etc.).

Not only does POS let you take payment for goods, but it lets you link your selling hardware (card readers, tablets etc.) to your online store’s back end, meaning that your inventory levels remain accurate, regardless of whether you make an online or an offline sale.

Up until fairly recently, Shopify offered this functionality but Squarespace didn’t.

However, Squarespace now offers an integration with Square, an ecommerce company that specializes in providing POS hardware.

The main difference between the Shopify and Squarespace offerings in this area boils down to what selling hardware you can use.

The Shopify point of sale hardware range is extensive, and includes barcode scanners, card readers, cash drawers and receipt printers; you can buy any of these items individually or as a package.

You can purchase this POS hardware directly from the Shopify Hardware Store in Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US.

Outside these territories, supported hardware is available from authorized resellers.

US merchants can also a new ‘all-in-one’ POS solution from Shopify called ‘Shopify POS Go’ (pictured below): a hand-held device that gives you access to your Shopify dashboard while providing a built-in card reader and barcode scanner.

As for Squarespace, it only allows you to integrate the Square card reader into proceedings — and only if you are based in the United States and using an iOS device.

Shopify also offers several other POS features that are not available from Squarespace yet, including staff accounts, permission setting, staff PINs and location management.

However, you will need to invest in an $89 per month, per location add-on — “Shopify POS Pro” — to avail of most of this functionality.

Ultimately, if POS is important to you — especially if you live outside the USA — the better option is definitely Shopify.

You can learn more about Shopify POS here.

Dropshipping in Squarespace and Shopify

Many people who dip their toes into the waters of online retailing do so because they want to start dropshipping products.

Dropshipping is a method of online retailing where you don’t keep what you’re selling in stock — instead, you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they send the goods to the client.

Your online store, in effect, becomes a front end or middle man for another business.

The plus side of this model is that it doesn’t involve much investment to start a business; the down side is that margins tend to be quite low due to high levels of competition, and it’s hard to be sure of the quality of dropshipped goods — or whether they were produced ethically.

Pros and cons of dropshipping aside, if you’re interested in starting a dropshipping business, Shopify is better than Squarespace.

There is a very large range of dropshipping apps available for Shopify to help you source and sell inventory (492 at time of writing, including DSers (AliExpress), Spocket, Modalyst and many others) — but your options are fairly limited by comparison in Squarespace.

That said, Squarespace has recently been making more ‘extensions’ available to meet needs of users hoping to start a dropshipping business.

These include:

It’s great to see Squarespace start to provide more dropshipping options — but because of its much more extensive range of dropshipping apps and integrations, the winner in this area remains Shopify.

Selling on other sites with Shopify and Squarespace

Both Squarespace and Shopify let you you sell on other ‘sales channels’ — you can use either website builder to sell on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, eBay and Amazon.

Depending on the sales channel involved, you may need a paid-for app or extension to do so (and this can be expensive where Squarespace is concerned, because the extension you’ll need for doing this, Trunk, starts at $35 per month).

What’s particularly nice about Shopify when it comes to selling on other websites is that you can use its ‘Buy Button’ feature to embed products on any sort of online presence that permits you to add a snippet of code to it.

So, for example, if you’re reaching out to bloggers about a product, you can give them the option to add a ‘product card’ (pictured below) to their posts which allows their readers to purchase it immediately.

Currently, there’s not an equivalent feature available from Squarespace.

Mobile apps

Shopify and Squarespace both provide users with mobile apps for managing their sites or stores on the go.

There are currently three main Squarespace apps available for managing content, which work on both Android and iOS:

The ‘Squarespace’ app is the main app you’ll need to manage a Squarespace site on the go — it lets you edit content, view analytics and manage orders (and if you’re using the iOS version and US-based, you’ll get access to point-of-sale features through it too).

The ‘Scheduling’ apps are designed to let you manage appointments with your clients (‘Scheduling Admin’) or let your clients book and manage ones with you (‘Scheduling Client’).

Shopify provides quite a few apps too, but two are of most relevance to merchants: the ‘Shopify’ app and the ‘Shopify POS’ app.

The ‘Shopify’ app allows you to edit certain aspects of your Shopify site, view basic stats and check on orders.

As the name suggests, ‘Shopify POS’ is an app dedicated to Shopfy’s POS (point of sale) functionality — it allows you to take orders and accept payment for goods in a physical location.

The above two apps are all you need really to run a Shopify store on your mobile, but if you want more, you can pick up some other Shopify apps — these include a customer chat app (‘Shopify Inbox’), a shopping app (‘Shop’) a local delivery app, an order tracking app and a logo maker.

Of these additional Shopify mobile apps, ‘Shopify Inbox’ and ‘Shop’ are probably the most useful.

The ‘Shopify Inbox’ app lets you add a live chat service to your Shopify store, and also makes it easy to manage queries and share your product details with customers when chatting with them over other chat services (Facebook Messenger, Instagram etc.).

The ‘Shop’ app provides its users with an accelerated checkout option, the option to pay for products bought on Shopify stores in instalments and ways to follow or discover brands.

Tax calculations in Squarespace and Shopify

With Shopify, you can apply the correct tax rules automatically for most countries; and this feature is particularly useful for merchants selling digital goods in the EU.

This is because when your business sells a digital product to consumers in EU member states, VAT MOSS (‘VAT Mini One Stop Shop’) requires you to charge value added tax at the rate due in the consumer’s country.

Shopify will calculate apply this automatically for you when you use its free ‘Digital Downloads’ app — and this is a massive time saver.

As for Squarespace, if you’re on one of its commerce plans, an integration with TaxJar that provides automatic tax calculations is included — but only for US merchants. This means that many non-US users will end up having to set up their sales taxes manually in Squarespace.

So, when it comes to calculating sales taxes — and especially for non-US merchants — it’s a clear win for Shopify.

SSL

SSL — secure socket layer — is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between web servers and browser, and using it ensures that all data passed between a web server and browser remains private.

(You can spot a site using SSL when you see a URL beginning with “https://” rather than “http://”).

There’s also another benefit to having SSL installed on your site: Google treats it as a ‘positive signal’ when ranking your site in search results.

The good news here is that both Shopify and Squarespace provide a free SSL certificate that you can use with any domain.

Domains

Once potentially tempting feature of Squarespace is that when you purchase one of their annual plans, you get a free custom domain name — yoursitename.com etc. — with it. This lasts for one year, after which you’ll have to pay for it yourself.

Although you can use Shopify to register a custom domain name, there is a cost associated with this (domain names start at $14 per year).

You can also buy domain names separately through Squarespace too, if you like — but they’re a bit more expensive, starting at $20 per year. (These means that over time, domain costs will be higher with Squarespace, even taking the first year’s free domain into account).

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The advantage of sourcing a domain from either Squarespace or Shopify is that you won’t have to worry about configuring DNS settings when launching your store. Connecting your domain to your Squarespace or Shopify site will be extremely easy, with all the settings pre-configured for you.

The disadvantage is that you are placing all your eggs in one basket — if for whatever reason you lost access to your Shopify or Squarespace account, and you had bought a domain from these companies, you would be losing access not just to your content management system but your domain too.

Given that a domain is hugely important to a business (particularly well-established ones), this is a risk best avoided — so I personally think it’s safer to buy a domain using a reputable third-party provider, and tweak the DNS settings (which is not a terribly complicated job anyway) to map the domain to your Squarespace or Shopify website.

In terms of what domains are available to buy direct from either Squarespace or Shopify, you’ll find that they don’t offer as many top level domain (TLD) options as you’d find with a dedicated domain name provider. For example, you might find that your country’s TLD domain is not catered for.

Product types

So what can you actually sell with Squarespace and Shopify?

Well, both products let you sell physical goods, digital goods and subscriptions.

Shopify has an edge when it comes to digital goods, because it is much more generous with regard to the size of the product you can sell — you can upload files of up to 5 GB in size, which dwarfs Squarespace’s 300 MB limit.

As for subscriptions, Squarespace lets you do this ‘out of the box’ (but only on its ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan). In Shopify, you’ll need to make use of a third-party app to facilitate them (which will mean an additional fee).

However, the built-in subscription feature in Squarespace is only for use with physical goods or services — if you want to offer your visitors a subscription that provides regular access to digital products, you’ll need to either:

If you’d like to create a members’ area in Shopify, you’ll always need to use a third-party solution — for example, the Locksmith app (which also starts at $9 per month).

Product images

One thing that I feel is handled considerably better by Squarespace than Shopify is product images.

With Shopify, unless all your images have a consistent aspect ratio, they will be laid out in a pretty incoherent manner: visitors to your site will see a mish-mash of differently sized image photos in the product catalogues.

There are two ways to get around this: first, you can manually edit all your images (either using a photo editing app like Photoshop, Canva, Adobe Express or Shopify’s built in picture editor) so that they all have the same aspect ratio…but this is a bit of a pain.

Alternatively, you can make use of a third-party Shopify app such as Pixc to resize images on your store automatically after you upload them (Pixc lets you resize 50 images for free — once you’ve exceeded this limit, you’ll have to subscribe to a monthly plan or pay a $0.05 pay-as-you-go fee).

Neither workaround is ideal, and it would be better if Shopify just allowed you to set a standard product image ratio out of the box.

Squarespace provides a much better approach: you pick an aspect ratio for your product images and the system will automatically crop all your pictures to that ratio.

If you like, you can also specify a ‘focal point‘ for individual product images in Squarespace — this part of the photo will be emphasised within the cropped image.

In an era of responsive websites, this focal point feature is important, because it helps ensure that the main part of your image is foregrounded whenever your image is automatically cropped for viewing on smaller screens.

So when it comes to image management, it’s a definite win for Squarespace.

Product options

Another area where Squarespace has an edge over Shopify involves product options.

In Shopify, you can create just three options for your store products — for example, colour, size or material. Squarespace lets you create up to six.

Shopify lets you list 100 ‘variants’ of your products based on the options you’ve created. (Variants are combinations of product options — for example a large blue t-shirt would be one variant, a small red t-shirt another and so on).

Squarespace is again more generous here, giving you a 250 variant limit.

That said, you can get around these limitations entirely in Shopify, so long as you are prepared to pay for a third-party app to do so (a popular solution for this being the Infinite Options app).

But when it comes to ‘out-of-the box’ flexibility for product options and variants, it’s a win for Squarespace.

Selling in different currencies

You tend to get more online sales if you sell in the currency used by your site visitors.

So, if you’re selling in multiple countries, it’s good to let your potential customers choose their own currency (or, better yet, to present your products in your site visitors’ currency automatically).

As things stand, Squarespace doesn’t let you do any multi-currency selling at all. By contrast, thanks to its ‘Shopify Markets’ feature — which lets you define ‘markets’ featuring languages and currencies of your choice — Shopify does.

This only works so long as you are using Shopify Payments as your payment processor, however; if you live in a country where Shopify Payments is unavailable, you’ll need to use a third-party app instead.

And it’s important to note that — with the exception of the $2,000 per month+ ‘Shopify Plus’ plan — Shopify multi-currency functionality doesn’t include auto-conversion. Instead, users are instead prompted to select their country from a drop-down menu (with IP addresses and geolocation being used to auto-suggest the most appropriate country).

And you can only set currency conversion rates manually if you are on the most expensive Shopify plans — ‘Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ (on any other plan, a straightforward currency conversion will apply, which might lead to product pricing that isn’t appropriate for certain markets).

The same goes for collecting duties or import taxes with Shopify — you can only do this on the ‘Advanced’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plans.

So in order to save costs and gain more bespoke multi-currency functionality, some merchants will prefer to make use of a third-party Shopify app to handle international selling.

But of the two products under discussion, the winner when it comes to built-in multi-currency features is, without question, Shopify.

Shipping options

Both Squarespace and Shopify allow you to set the following rates:

Shopify goes one better by allowing you to set price-based rates too, so it’s another win here for Shopify.

Reporting

If you’re looking for a website builder with professional reporting functionality, then Shopify is a better option than Squarespace.

Although the Squarespace reporting offering has improved quite a bit recently, the stats provided are still of a more basic nature than those found in Shopify.

In Squarespace, you can expect to see a simple but effective overview of site visitors, traffic sources and sales — but Shopify’s analytics offering is much more extensive, giving you a set of detailed reports that include:

And what’s more, you can use Shopify to create your own custom reports too.

There is a negative aspect of Shopify’s reporting offering which is worth pointing out however: the best reports are only available on the more expensive Shopify plans.

Detailed reports are available on the $79 ‘Shopify’ plan and higher; and to avail of custom/advanced reporting you’ll need to purchase an ‘Advanced Shopify’ or ‘Shopify Plus’ plan.

If you don’t opt for one of these plans, you just get access to quite basic ecommerce data.

You could of course use Google Analytics to get around this — but you’d need to do more manual configuration and ‘goal-setting’ to get at the sales data you need.

Similarly, Squarespace charges a premium for more advanced reporting features — if you want enhanced ecommerce analytics, you’ll need to be on one of the more expensive ‘commerce’ plans.

And even if you do opt for one of these, you’ll find that although you can access a couple more ecommerce reports (containing purchase funnel and abandoned cart data), you’ll find they’re pretty basic in nature, and not as informative as the kind of data you can access in Shopify.

Blogging in Squarespace and Shopify

Blogging is an often-overlooked, but extremely important part of running an online store. It’s is absolutely vital to inbound marketing — where you use quality content to drive up traffic, and by extension, sales.

The good news is that both Squarespace and Shopify provide built-in blogging functionality (something that is not true of all ecommerce platforms).

In terms of which is better, I’d say Squarespace’s blogging functionality has a slight edge over Shopify’s. This is chiefly because you can do more with the blog content — you can drop it easily into any page or sidebar of your site using attractive and flexible ‘summary blocks’.

Shopify’s new “Online Store 2.0” content management system does let you drop blog content into other pages easily enough, but Squarespace gives you much more control over how you display it (you can show featured posts, ones written by a particular author or containing a certain tag etc. — Shopify doesn’t give you these sorts of presentation options).

You can also add both categories and tags to posts in Squarespace; Shopify facilitates the addition of tags only.

As with much else in Shopify, if you want more blogging functionality, you’ll need to resort to an app.

And speaking of which…

Third party integrations and apps

Both Shopify and Squarespace allow you to buy apps — or avail of free ones — which add functionality to your site.

Shopify’s app store contains over 8,000 apps. These include integrations with other tools and apps which have been developed to add specific pieces of functionality to Shopify stores (for example SEO enhancements; dropshipping functionality; multiple currency support — and much else besides).

The Shopify app store
The Shopify app store

Squarespace’s apps come in the form of ‘extensions.’ These represent a relatively new development for the company, so at time of writing there is only a limited number available — just 31 — but you can expect this number to grow over time.

Additionally, there are a few ‘official integrations’ available out of the box with Squarespace (available on the ‘Business’ plan or higher) — these include Mailchimp, ChowNow, OpenTable and quite a few others.

For anything else, you can either embed code from other apps into your Squarespace site using a code block, or use the app-syncing service Zapier to connect Squarespace’s forms to other online tools.

For bespoke functionality, you can code something yourself, or buy some third-party code snippets (these are increasingly referred to as ‘Squarespace plugins.’).

AMP in Shopify and Squarespace

Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) is a Google-backed format for content which makes it load really fast on mobile devices. It does this by stripping out certain bits of code from your site and delivering a slimmed down version of your content to smartphone users.

AMP pages create a better mobile experience than normal responsive web pages; because they load more or less instantaneously, people viewing AMP pages are more likely to stay on your site (and, by extension, buy stuff!).

Google also occasionally prioritizes AMP pages in search, by featuring them in carousels above standard search results.

In Squarespace, you can enable Accelerated Mobile Pages (‘AMP’) format really easily — it’s simply a case of ticking a checkbox in your site’s settings — but at time of writing it is only available for blog posts, not products.

To use AMP on Shopify sites, you’ll need to do a bit more work — you’ll need to install a third-party, paid-for app like Fire AMP.

However, relevant Shopify apps allows you to display ALL your site content (including, crucially, product pages) in AMP format.

So, as long as you’re happy with paying an additional fee for an AMP app, the winner here is Shopify.

Using Shopify and Squarespace with Google Workspace

Squarespace has in the past made quite a lot of noise about the fact that it partners with Google to offer Squarespace users a Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) integration.

You can sign up for Google Workspace when you purchase your Squarespace plan — and if you’re on a ‘Business’, ‘Basic’ or ‘Advanced’ plan, you’ll get a year’s free Google Workspace plan (for one user).

When you sign up for Google Workspace through Squarespace, you can manage certain Google Workspace admin tasks without leaving your Squarespace site, including:

All this functionality is easily accessible through the standard Google Workspace admin panel, so the integration isn’t all that mind-blowing.

More appealing is the year’s free account — this offers a reasonably good saving, particularly for solopreneurs who only need one email account.

Squarespace does integrate very nicely with Google Workspace in one particular respect — you can connect data capture forms to a Google Sheet, meaning that you get a handy real-time overview (or indeed archive) of any form submissions made via your website.Similar functionality isn’t available out of the box with Shopify without the addition of an app.

Editing HTML and CSS in Shopify and Squarespace

With Shopify you get very extensive control over the coding of your site — you get full access to the HTML and CSS of your website on all plans except the ‘Starter’ one.

With Squarespace, on the ‘Business’ and higher plans, you can edit the CSS and certain bits of HTML; you can insert code blocks onto pages, or inject HTML into the header of your site.

One thing to be aware of however is that the kind of customer support you can expect from both Shopify and Squarespace might become a bit limited depending on the custom CSS or HTML you add (more on support in just a moment).

But when it comes to giving you control over your code, Shopify takes the win.

Email marketing in Squarespace and Shopify

An extremely important aspect of running a website is capturing email addresses — your ability to communicate effectively with leads via e-newsletters is vital to business growth.

Let’s look at how Squarespace and Shopify stack up on this front.

Integrating an email marketing tool with Squarespace and Shopify

Both Squarespace and Shopify allow you to capture email addresses to a third-party email marketing solution of your choosing — GetResponse, Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp or AWeber etc.

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With the exception of Mailchimp, which is very easy to integrate with Squarespace, connecting these email marketing solutions is generally easier in Shopify, due to official Shopify integrations for them being available.

In most cases, to use a third-party email marketing tool with Squarespace forms, you’ll usually have to use Zapier to create an integration between the app and your Squarespace site — this can result in additional costs and set up time.

Alternatively, you can use HTML code to embed forms from other email marketing providers onto Squarespace site pages.

The other alternative is to use Squarespace or Shopify’s new built-in email marketing features — both tools now offer a way to create and send newsletters out of the box.

Let’s take a look at these.

Squarespace Email Campaigns

Squarespace’s built-in email marketing feature is called ‘Squarespace Email Campaigns’ — you have to pay extra to use it, and there are four plans available:

These plans are pretty cheap by comparison to the plans available from dedicated email marketing solutions (especially at the top end of the pricing scale), and allow you to dip your toes into the world of online direct marketing without a significant outlay being involved.

The key benefit of using Squarespace Email Campaigns is that you can manage both your website and mailing list — arguably the two most important online assets of any business — in one place; and, to a degree, your emails will be consistent with your brand (depending on which typeface you use on your site — not all fonts are available in Squarespace-created e-newsletters).

On top of that, the e-newsletter templates — as you’d expect from Squarespace — are strong, and easy to edit, with a drag-and-drop interface that is quite similar to Squarespace’s web page editor being available. And you can drop content from your site easily into your newsletters — for example, blog posts or product information.

In terms of functionality, although it’s nice to see some autoresponder functionality being included with Squarespace Email Campaigns (on the $14 per month ‘Core’ plan or higher), it’s currently basic by comparison to that provided by dedicated email marketing tools like Mailchimp or GetResponse (we’re talking simple ‘drip’ campaigns only). And there’s no split testing or comprehensive email segmentation available.

Shopify Email

Perhaps hoping not to be outdone by Squarespace, Shopify has also introduced an email marketing tool, ‘Shopify Email’.

As with Squarespace Email Campaigns, the main advantage of using the feature is that it allows you to manage your website and mailing list in one place.

The best thing about Shopify Email is its price: you can use it to email 10,000 subscribers a month for free, with a $1 per month fee for every additional 1,000 subscribers you message; and unlike Squarepsace, there’s no monthly fees involved when you use the service.

And recently, automation features have been introduced too: you can configure Shopify Email so that it sends welcome emails, upsell emails etc., based on particular subscriber actions.

Overall, while Shopify Email and Squarespace Email Campaigns don’t yet offer the levels of email automation sophistication that you’d find in a professional solution like Mailchimp or AWeber, they are competitively-priced tools that add a lot of value to both platforms.

But because it’s available for free, comes with generous send limits and has slightly better automation features, the better-value email marketing tool of the two is currently Shopify’s.

Creating multilingual sites in Squarespace and Shopify

Shopify has made great strides recently to provide functionality that enables you to present your content in multiple languages — using its new ‘Shopify Markets’ feature, you can create up to 20 different language versions of your website on all paid-for plans except the ‘Starter’ plan.

When you enable multi-language selling in Shopify, a language folder is added to your domain. So you’ll end up with www.myshop.com/fr/, www.myshop.com/de/ etc.

(If you’re on a ‘Shopify’ or higher plan, you can also use an international domain — myshop.fr, myshop.de etc.)

As for Squarespace, although you can technically use the platform to create different language versions of your website, you’ll have to use a paid-for third-party app to do so: Weglot.

As the video below shows, this is very straightforward, because Squarespace has recently teamed up with Weglot to provide a ‘deep,’ official integration.

Costs for using Weglot can be significant however — as you can see from the pricing table below, if you translate your Squarespace site into 20 languages, you’re looking at a monthly fee of $499.

So, although Squarespace does now make it fairly easy to translate websites, because of the cost differentials involved, the win here definitely goes to Shopify.

Customer support

Shopify has the edge over Squarespace when it comes to customer support.

Shopify provides you with live chat, email and, importantly, phone support — Squarespace offers only live chat and email support.

The availability of in-person, live support in your own language depends on your territory; as for online help centers, Squarespace’s support materials are provided in 6 languages; Shopify’s are presented in 21.

Oddly, however, Shopify’s online help materials don’t feature any screenshots or photographs. By contrast the Squarespace help resources are packed full of images and videos — so for me, Squarespace’s are the more user-friendly of the two.

As for the phone support provided by Shopify, it works using a ‘callback’ system — you request a call from the support team, and they phone you back later. A waiting time estimate is provided when you request your call.

A note of caution is worth sounding regarding the customer support offered with both Shopify and Squarespace — the quality of support you’ll get often depends on what you’re doing with your template.

For example, if you’re using one of the standard free Shopify templates (i.e., the ones developed by the company itself), you can expect fairly comprehensive customer support if it’s not behaving as it should.

But if you opt for a third-party, paid-for template, you may have to deal with the designers of that template if you run into trouble. And how good that support is will depend on the designers in question.

Similarly, Squarespace’s customer support team are pretty good at assisting with template related queries…unless you customize your template by adding your own CSS or HTML to it, in which case the Squarespace support team may not be able to support you as fully.

I’ve had more personal experience of Squarespace’s customer support than Shopify’s, and it’s varied from being brilliant (when dealing with technical issues to do with SSL) to dreadful (when dealing with Squarespace GDPR related enquiries).

One thing that is likely to annoy both Squarespace and Shopify users is that before you get to see any contact details for their support teams, you need to search for an answer to your problem first on the Shopify and Squarespace help sites.

I can see the rationale behind this, but I think that many (most?) users will have already searched for a solution to their problem before getting to the point where they want to contact a support team — and this approach feels like it’s making customers jump through unnecessary hoops.

Shopify and Squarespace GDPR compliance

I am not a lawyer, so please note that the below observations should not be interpreted as legal advice — but I’m going to do my best to spell out some of the key GDPR issues facing Squarespace and Shopify site owners in this section.

Since the introduction of GDPR — the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation — website owners have had to adhere to new, stricter data protection guidelines to protect the privacy of EU site users. (US merchants selling to California consumers face similar regulations via the CCPA act).

There are many legal steps that the GDPR requires business owners to take to ensure compliance, and fairly serious penalties for not doing so (to the point where it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer about precisely what to do!), but the key ones for prospective Shopify and Squarespace users are probably as follows:

Now, meeting the first three requirements with either Squarespace or Shopify is fairly easy (although you will have a bit of work to do in terms of creating GDPR compliant privacy policies and data capture forms).

Meeting the fourth requirement however is harder, and in my view Squarespace and Shopify should be doing more to assist their customers to meet this GDPR obligation (particularly Squarespace).

Basically, whenever you use non-essential third party cookies on a website — for example when using Facebook Ads or Google Analytics — you are legally obliged to give EU visitors to your website the option to switch these off BEFORE they continue to browse your site (even if your site is based outside of the EU).

You are also obliged to log EU users’ consent to any non-essential cookies being used, and give them the option to revoke that consent at a later stage.

Sadly, out of the box there is no way to facilitate this kind of GDPR cookie consent for third party scripts on either Shopify or Squarespace, meaning that many (if not the vast majority of) Squarespace and Shopify users end up breaking the law as soon as they add a third-party cookie to their website.

To get around this problem, you will need to either:

It’s probably fair to say that most Shopify and Squarespace users (people who are probably using code-free store builders for a reason!) are likely to go for the second option; and based on my research into this area so far, Shopify is the more flexible platform when it comes to integrating third party cookie banners.

For a start, there are quite a few apps in Shopify’s app store that provide GDPR-compliant banners and cookie consent functionality. Note that some seem considerably better than others — if in doubt about how robust a particular Shopify GPDR app is, consult a lawyer!

There are no dedicated Squarespace ‘extensions’ to solve the GDPR problem, however. And my own appeals to their support team for help on this issue have proved pretty fruitless!

Thankfully though, there is a solution, involving third-party products (our current favourite being CookieYes) that you can add on to Squarespace via the insertion of a few lines of code to your site. These can be configured to block cookies until a user has accepted them.

The bottom line on GDPR: you can make a Shopify or Squarespace site GDPR-compliant, but it will involve some work (and ongoing fees, if you’re using a third party cookie banner solution), with Shopify providing you with more options to solve the problem.

I would much prefer it both website builders took followed the example of competing platform BigCommerce and offered cookie consent tools as a built-in feature!

Shopify vs Squarespace: conclusion

If your primary aim to build an attractive website to showcase content, then out of the two products here, Squarespace is the better option. I’d argue that this is particularly the case if you’re working with images — Squarespace is especially good for creating online photography portfolios. It’s also a great option for those working in a creative industry; musicians, authors and other creative types are particularly well served by Squarespace.

If you are hoping to build a content-focused website or a blog and sell a couple of products on the side as well, then Squarespace is probably still the best option — so long as you are happy to sell in just one currency, and aren’t dealing with too many different tax rates.

However, if your aim is to create a professional online store with automatic tax calculation, point of sale functionality, detailed reporting and a large inventory of products, then Shopify is unquestionably the better solution — its feature set and payment gateway options are significantly more extensive, and its SEO features are a bit stronger too.

Although both platforms could perform better where GDPR is concerned, it’s fair to say that merchants wishing to have a high level of compliance on their website will find that this is easier to achieve with Shopify, especially where cookie consent is concerned.

I’ll leave you with a list of the key reasons why you might pick one of these platforms over the other; but as always, before committing to either product, I recommend trying them both out thoroughly yourself. A free trial of Shopify is available here, and you can try Squarespace here.

Pros and cons of Shopify vs Squarespace

And finally, a reminder that we can help you build both Shopify and Squarespace websites! Please do contact us for more information on how you can get a Shopify or Squarespace project off the ground quickly and professionally with us.

Alternatives to Shopify and Squarespace

If you’re hoping to build an ecommerce site, you might like to investigate BigCommerce; it is feature-rich and very easy to use (it’s particularly good when it comes to providing merchants with the option to add a wide variety of product variants and taking multi-currency payments). See our BigCommerce review and our BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison for more details.

If you are on a low budget and hoping to build a simple website, then Wix is worthing investigating. Check out our Wix review, our Shopify vs Wix comparison, our Wix vs WordPress comparison and our Squarespace vs Wix post for more information on this platform.

If designing a bespoke content site is your key aim, Webflow is a good option – it comes with a host of very attractive templates that can be tweaked to the nth degree.

If you already have a website (for example a WordPress site), Ecwid is worth a look — this allows you to add comprehensive ecommerce functionality to an existing online presence. You can check out our Ecwid review here, our Shopify vs Ecwid comparison here.

Finally, you may be wondering if online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay and Amazon are good options for building an online store — our Shopify vs Etsy, Shopify vs eBay and Shopify vs Amazon articles will give you some insights on this.

You may also find some of our other ecommerce reviews or our ecommerce platforms buying guide helpful.

Any thoughts or questions?

Got any thoughts or queries on Shopify vs Squarespace? Feel free to post them in the comments section below! We’ll do our best to answer any queries you may have on either website builder.

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