I must admit that Squarespace excels at marketing. And while their product is by no means bad, there is a better and cheaper alternative for photography websites: WordPress. And while the many photographers promoting Squarespace in their videos will tell you how complicated setting up a WordPress website for photography is, I will show you that is definitely not the case.
In a series of videos on my YouTube channel I will be guiding you through how to set up a WordPress photography website from A to Z. Everything will be covered, from setting up the domain to finally launching your website.
This article will cover why I think that WordPress is the better CMS (content management system) for your photography website. Don’t fall for the hype, WordPress can do anything Squarespace can do and so much more.
YouTubers sponsored by Squarespace
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard photographers on YouTube talking about how great of a product Squarespace is. So, you might have played with the thought of launching your photography website on Squarespace or a similar service (I know there are many other site-builders such as Wix available, but Squarespace seems to be sponsoring just about every photography YouTuber out there).
I’ll let you into a little secret. Many of these photographers don’t actually use Squarespace on their sites, which always struck me as a bit odd. For example, Thomas Heaton, and I’m not trying to hate on him, I really like his content, doesn’t use Squarespace despite them sponsoring many of his videos. What does Thomas Heaton use instead? WordPress, of course.
As can be seen in the page source above, there are many mentions of
wp-content, which are a dead giveaway that a website uses WordPress. You can also tell from the same source that Thomas Heaton uses WooCommerce, a very popular WordPress plugin, for his galleries and store.
WordPress isn’t as easy as Squarespace but it isn’t complicated either
You might have also heard how complicated setting up a WordPress is and how you have to faff about with databases, PHP, and CSS code to get everything set up. Basically, what Squarespace’s marketers are telling you is that you have to be a programmer before you can even start uploading content on WordPress.
Trust me, WordPress is not that complicated. In fact, many hosts offer one-click installers for WordPress nowadays, which makes it comparable to site-builders such as Squarespace. This whole ‘you have to be a programmer to build your photography website with WordPress‘ is one big myth and has to be brought to an end.
I can confidently say that while using WordPress might not be quite as easy as using Squarespace, it isn’t either. Even those not technically inclined will grasp the basics in no time.
Why choose WordPress over Squarespace for a photography website?
Still not convinced of WordPress? Let me explain why you should definitely go with WordPress over Squarespace or any other website builder you might have come across.
For your information, I have no affiliation with WordPress or any WordPress related product. While I do have affiliate links for certain themes and plugins, I only use them to help financially support this website. I do also not have a personal vendetta against Squarespace. All I want to do is help you find the right CMS for your needs.
WordPress is cheaper than Squarespace
For me personally, a big reason in choosing WordPress over Squarespace are the costs involved. Upfront Squarespace doesn’t seem unreasonable. You pay $12 per month for the personal plan. Cut that only applies if you pay annually. Were you to pay monthly that price would jump to $16.
But won’t you look at that, you get a free domain if you pick Squarespace!? Well, it turns out that the domain is only ‘free’ for a year. After that, you’re forced to pay $20 to $70 every year for the domain. So add around another $4 to that monthly cost after the first year.
Pay more for an email address
If you continue to read through the Squarespace personal plan’s options, you will see that you don’t even get to create a personalized email address. Obviously, you want and email address to go with the website. Even if it’s just there to avoid all the spam going into your main inbox.
With that in mind, you’re basically forced to go for the Business plan, which is $18 a month. At this point, you’re going to be paying around $22 a month for your photography website and its domain, which in my opinion is just too much if you’re only getting your feet wet. And don’t forget, that price only applies if you’ve signed on annually. You’ll be stuck with Squarespace for twelve months at that point.
What I pay for WordPress
I’m currently paying about CHF10, which is around $10, a month for hosting. Add to that about $20 per year for my domain. In total that comes to about $12 a month for one photography website. That’s already $10 cheaper than a comparable Squarespace plan.
And the best thing about the hosting is that I get to create up to 10 websites using my plan. So with each new website, I only have to pay for the domain. That means with each new website the average cost per website goes down. With Squarespace, it stays the same. Obviously, I don’t have to pay anything extra for email addresses.
WordPress gives you control over your photography website
Site-builders such as Squarespace do not give you full control over your photography website. They are very much an iPhone-like product in that they tell you how they expected you to use it. There aren’t many options for customization.
Take this example: I wanted to enable Google search snippets on my recipe blog using structured data. Originally, that blog was hosted on Squarespace and there was no way for me to enable the snippets. Because Squarespace didn’t expect me to use that feature I wasn’t given it.
With WordPress, it’s a different story. I can easily install a plugin that does it all for me. And WordPress runs on about a third of the top 10 million websites worldwide so you can expect support for almost everything. If you’re interested, I’m currently using SEOPress PRO for my structured data.
WordPress gives you control over your data, Squarespace doesn’t
The look and feel of your photography website is just one aspect of the missing control. Control over your data is another area where WordPress has Squarespace beat. With WordPress, your data is your data. You can take your photography website and upload it to a new host if you’d like. You can access every single file via FTP and download them in bulk.
With a site-builder, your data will generally stay with the provider. There’s no easy way of downloading text and images in bulk. They clearly want you to remain a customer and will do anything to keep it that way. My migration from Squarespace to WordPress took days to complete, and I was forced to copy and paste every single post.
Endless WordPress themes
While Squarespace templates do have nice designs and are very clean looking, there aren’t really that many of them. There’s no real way to distinguish your photography website if you’re using Squarespace.
As a previous Squarespace user, I almost always recognize a Squarespace website as soon as I see it. Squarespace will give you the tools to create a very nice-looking website but WordPress comes out as a clear winner in terms of design choices, customization options, and flexibility.
Wrap-up: WordPress, not Squarespace, should power your photography website
For the reasons mentioned in this article, I think you should be looking at WordPress and not a site-builder such as Squarespace when deciding on which CMS to go with for your photography website. While Squarespace is an easy-to-use tool and offers a slightly easier setup, the cons outweigh the benefits.
With WordPress, you can get started on shared hosting for very little money. It has an absolutely massive selection of themes and plugins and you are in charge of everything. And actually, that might be its only downside: You are also in charge of updates and security. So perhaps don’t go with WordPress if you just want to set it and forget it. For everything else, do it.