Wordpress vs Business Catalyst vs Squarespace
Need to update your website more than quarterly? In that case, you need a content management system. But there are so many choices! Should you dive into Wordpress? Is yours a Business Catalyst kind of business? Or is Squarespace exactly what you need?
Fortunately, Web Developer's Studio is intimately familiar with all three. Many (many) of our sites are built on Wordpress, we've made such robust Business Catalyst sites that we've written a Business Catalyst user manual for a client, and we can whip up a Squarespace site fairly quickly. Let us share some expertise.
What are they?
Wordpress, Business Catalyst, and Squarespace are comprehensive content management systems (CMS). That means they have a "front-end" (the website visible to visitors) and a "back-end" (the dashboard where you log in and make changes). All products are also very customizable. No layman would be able to distinguish between them from the front-end, and each can look quite unique.
All three systems can accommodate multiple users, and allow an "administrator user" to assign or restrict specific capabilities of the other users.
The similarities end about there. Here are the differences.
Themes are great for budgets. They can be free or paid, and any theme can be altered as much as you want (see our tips for choosing great themes). Wordpress has the advantage of popularity here, with countless themes available on various marketplaces. Wordpress themes are also capable of altering the back-end. This means the themes not only look different, but have different capabilities - some may have calendar functionality, others may have built-in social media buttons, more user-friendly ways to customize the look, etc.
Business Catalyst is configured differently, and accepts regular HTML themes. These can only modify the design, not the dashboard. This means Business Catalyst themes are slightly easier to install - most are just a set of files for us to upload and manipulate to your liking.
Squarespace itself offers many beautiful templates, but restricts customization in an effort to keep every site looking clean and simple. While this limits design options, it means that creating a small, attractive Squarespace site can be quick and cheap. It’s possible for us to customize them extensively, but that would compromise Squarespace’s main advantages of speed and price. If you’re asking us to heavily customize a Squarespace site, then Wordpress or Business Catalyst are probably better choices.
Each system has two separate back-ends: the dashboard, and a design mode. Dashboards are for general management. You can create, delete, or hide pages, change the menu or add widgets and plugins for extra functionality, or change the colors, logos, and overall look of the site. It’s also for admin tasks, like managing user logins and comments.
But dashboards can’t actually show your edits until you hit the "preview" button. “Preview” opens a new page every time - too slow for a smooth design process! Enter the design mode.
Business Catalyst’s design mode is called ICE (or “In-Context Editor”), Wordpress’ is called Visual Editor, and Squarespace’s is simply called Style. They all show your site’s front-end as it looks to visitors, aka WYSIWYG. You can click into and edit text or image components, and see your changes immediately.
Here’s the main difference between ICE and Visual Editor: ICE text and image components (editable “ICE boxes”) need to be predefined by a web developer. Once the developer makes a page section editable, it can be changed easily in ICE mode.
In Visual Editor, however, you can add and move components around yourself. This is both good and bad - it offers more freedom, but it can also disrupt a page’s professional look and feel (see our write-up on the drawbacks of content management).
Squarespace’s Style is most like Wordpress’s Visual Editor, but it shares some design tools with the Squarespace dashboard. This requires switching back and forth frequently during the design process. Some of our clients have found this confusing at first, but we can show you how to make the updates you’ll need.
Oops - you made a mistake! You thought you deleted a sentence, and now the whole page is gone. Sound familiar? Taking backups before altering a website is a practice WDS holds dear. However, CMS don’t always fully support backups.
In Wordpress, we can back up everything as often as needed--never a problem. In Business Catalyst, we can back up pages, but not news or blog posts - the system doesn’t allow it. In Squarespace, we cannot back up anything. If you make a mistake, or accidentally delete something, it must be recreated from scratch. This means Squarespace is best for small sites that would be easy to recreate quickly.
Conclusion: What’s best for you?
Ultimately, each system has its own strengths, and your ideal CMS depends on what you plan to do with it.
If you want a "Dear Diary" style news site or blog, or a website you can add to (not just update or change) regularly and by yourself, Wordpress may be the obvious choice. Business Catalyst’s and Squarespace’s inability to take real backups is a serious drawback. But many WDS clients can't be bothered with blogging anyway - they have a business to run!
If you plan on making frequent but small changes, Business Catalyst might be best. The ICE lets you make quick updates on existing pages. You can change promotions, event info, product descriptions, employee of the month bios, etc, without ever touching the dashboard.
Squarespace is quick and inexpensive. If you have a tight budget and just want to represent your business, maybe sell a few products, but don’t need anything fancier, Squarespace might be just right.