When I was first looking to make an online store in addition to my Etsy shop, I did all my research when it came to Squarespace and Shopify. I wanted total design customization, pages about national parks, a blog, small business resources, landing pages, but most importantly, a great looking e-commerce store. The reality was, I didn't necessarily want to limit myself when it came to my website, but maybe I wanted to do too many things?
How Squarespace and Shopify are similar:
1. Around the same costs
The Squarespace basic commerce plan is $27 per month (when paid yearly), and Shopify's comparable plan is $29 per month (when paid yearly). They both have the same credit card transactional fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 - which is the standard everywhere. With these basic commerce plans, there is no limit to how many products your store can have.
2. Both make professional looking websites
You don't have to be a master designer or coder - both platforms have easy to use templates to make a great looking website. Squarespace and Shopify are known as "out-of-the-box platforms", meaning, you have a base level to start from and just edit text, photos, and arrangement. If you feel like editing the html code, it is very easy to do so.
Why I first chose Squarespace:
1. Design functionality
Squarespace is much more than e-commerce - it is an actual website building platform. While it can't do every single thing you want, there are pre built blocks to make your website look exactly how you want, or you can build it from scratch. There are a lot less limits with Squarespace than Shopify.
2. Custom URL handles
While it might not be important to most people, having total customization of link URL handles was vital to me. I wanted my national park info pages to be .com/acadia (and so forth) so that the SEO rankings on Google were higher. The simpler and more direct handles do better in search engines, and I wanted organic traffic to my website.
However after a year, my business changed and I didn't necessarily need all those things I initially had.
Why I wanted to get rid of Squarespace:
1. Adding & editing products was a pain
While Squarespace has e-commerce functionality, it's not the priority, and its obvious. I had hundreds of products, and if I wanted to change multiple descriptions, prices, or anything else, I had to edit each product individually. Their version of bulk editing was downloading a .csv file and then re-uploading with edits. However, whenever I did this, it got rid of photos and shipping information - maybe I was doing this wrong, but I quickly found that it wasn't worth it.
2. Page load times
With hundreds of products, I was surprised to find that I couldn't have my catalog split into multiple pages. Because of that, all 400-something products were all trying to load on the same page. After 3 or 4 rows, you would have to wait a few minutes for all the product images to load. As a seller, that is the last thing I want a potential customer to experience - I want the looking and purchasing funnel to be as seamless as possible. I hate to think how many sales I lost from a customer not being able to see more than ten products.
However, I did run all the photos on my website through TinyPNG, which reduces the file size and increases the load time and page response. This is something you should do with any website, regardless of platform. If my load times were bad, I can't imagine what they would be like if I had images at the full size!
3. Despite customization, product pages were limited
With all the available customization on Squarespace, when it came to the actual product pages, customization was lacking. I wasn't able to adjust any of the spacing or sizing (unlike anywhere else on the website), and the product pages didn't look like any other e-commerce website pages. I feared that if they weren't able to look like what customers were used to seeing on their favorite online stores, they would think this wasn't a reliable or safe company to buy from. To be honest, if I had never head of my brand before, I would have thought that exact thing!
Why I love that I chose to move to Shopify
Actually made for e-commerce!
While Squarespace was made for generic website building, Shopify was made to have an online store. The product upload and editing process is simple, bulk editing is pretty easy, and the customer experience is great. A variety of payment options are available, and as a consumer, the interface is comfortable and familiar to most other online retailers.
While full website customization is slightly lacking, Shopify still can produce a good looking website. There are plenty of apps that can add on to your theme to allow for more customization, such as landing pages, color and size swatches, and digital downloads.
And the load time! I have my product catalog set to pages of 20 items, which means that load times and page response is top notch - customers do not have to wait around.
Why I wish I could have the baby of Shopify and Squarespace
1. Squarespace's page customization
2. Shopify's commerce system
3. Squarespace's custom URL handles
4. Shopify's page load time
My recommendation is to always do your research, because everyone's needs are different! Whether you choose to try either of these platforms, or something else entirely, take advantage of the free trials, and test it out! Depending on how large your shop is, or how much time you have to dedicate to building your site, you might not have to start paying for a plan until your site is live.
What platform do you have? What do you love or hate about it?