Home » Squarespace vs. Shopify 2022: what’s the better platform for ecommerce?


One of the earliest choices a new ecommerce brand has to make is how to build its website. There are quite a few website builders for ecommerce to pick from, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. But two candidates, Squarespace and Shopify, seem to be attracting a lot of attention lately. In the Squarespace vs. Shopify feud, which is the best choice for you?

Below, we compare these two popular website builders so you can see which will better fit your style. We’ll look at the usual categories of usability, customization, pricing and ecommerce features so you can make an educated decision about where to launch your online store. But before we dive into the details, let’s look at an overview of each platform.

Illustration by OrangeCrush

Squarespace vs. Shopify: at a glance

Right away, the biggest difference between Squarespace and Shopify is that Squarespace is a general site-builder for any industry, while Shopify is specifically built for ecommerce. That divide is at the heart of the Squarespace vs. Shopify debate: Squarespace has better features for general site building, while Shopify has better features for ecommerce.

Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Squarespace logo
Shopify Logo
Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Squarespace logo
Squarespace Logo

In terms of popularity, both Squarespace and Shopify are respected brands. A Forbes advisor article for the best ecommerce platforms of 2022 put Squarespace as the best overall platform with Shopify coming in fifth (out of ten). While that seems to suggest Squarespace is unequivocally the best choice when it comes to the details you still might prefer what Shopify has to offer, but that will depend on what you’re looking for.

Here’s a quick chart that summarizes some key points, but of course, we’ll go into more detail below.

Squarespace

Shopify

Usability

more learning curve

designed to be quick and effortless

Customization

much more design options; good for creating a unique site

restrictive, template-style design; not much customization

Pricing

generally cheaper payment plans and fewer transaction fees

generally more expensive payment plans, but with more features

Ecommerce features

has the basics, with extra features in the highest-tier payment plans

has a lot of features for different business models and strategies, including a few that Squarespace doesn’t offer

Squarespace vs. Shopify: usability

First off, both Squarespace and Shopify were made for convenience. Both are easy to use, compared to building a site from scratch, and both are appropriate for beginner and amateur designers. There’s no need for coding skills or even prior experience with either, so keep that in mind when we compare usability, as both are considered “easy” in the big picture.

That said, Shopify is easier to use than Squarespace. Shopify’s aim is to make site-building as effortless as possible, and they succeed at that. Once you choose a theme, one of your most important choices in how to make a Shopify website, the rest is simply filling in the blanks: adding your own titles and descriptions, naming your price, uploading pictures, etc.

Shopify takes full advantage of its templates. You don’t get the freedom of moving things around or customizing composition, but that’s a great advantage for usability because it means less learning curve and less time. Some features that aren’t available from the theme can be acquired at the Shopify app store, but that’s more or less optional.

 Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Screenshot of Shopify
Screenshot of Shopify’s user interface

Squarespace is a little more hands-on. While templates in Shopify are fixed, the templates in Squarespace are more like soft guides. In Squarespace, you’re free to move elements like images or text along a grid. This allows you to create your own compositions, as long as you stick to the predefined columns and rows.

Of course, that means Squarespace takes more time and effort. There’s a small learning curve, although if you’ve used other site-builders like Wix you’ll pick it up quickly. Unlike some other site builders, Squarespace handles responsive design for you, so edits made in a desktop version are automatically updated on the mobile version.

Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Screenshot of Squarespace
Screenshot of Squarespace’s user interface

Still, as easy as Squarespace is, it’s still more involved than Shopify. In a nutshell, you can create a full Squarespace site in just a few hours, but you can create a full Shopify site in just a few minutes! Of course, that means there are fewer options available in Shopify than in Squarespace, which brings us to our next category…

Squarespace vs. Shopify: customization

While Shopify may have edged out Squarespace in usability, Squarespace is the clear winner for customization.

Shopify’s ease of use comes at the cost of customization. The rigid, fill-in-the-blanks template style makes site design easier, but it’s incredibly restrictive. You can’t move around elements like you can in Squarespace, and you’re more or less locked into the style and design of your mandatory template.

Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Shopify design editor
Shopify design editor

What you can change in Shopify is the basics like images, fonts and general color schemes (not to mention the text itself). You’re able to add custom fonts (if you don’t mind playing with code) and you can modify pictures with whatever filters you want before uploading them. You’re limited to Shopify’s own color palette, but it’s fairly versatile with options for changing the hues and even gradients. This is enough to make a site all your own, however, your Shopify site might look similar to other Shopify sites with the same theme.

In general, Shopify puts the emphasis on selling and running your ecommerce business, with site design just an early obstacle to be taken care of quickly. If the site design is truly important to you, or if you have a creative idea that you want to bring to life, Squarespace is better suited for originality.

As mentioned above, templates in Squarespace are just starting points. You’re free to create new elements like buttons, images or text wherever you want, as long you configure it with the grid. There is a bit of customization for size and shape, but not much, although you can modify the alignment of the text.

Moreover, changing details like button colors is much easier in Squarespace. Even the templates themselves are of higher quality than most site-builders, and for the most part are good to go, so personalizing the details is merely optional.

Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Squarespace design editor
Squarespace design editor

One drawback to Squarespace’s customization is that they don’t have nearly as many add-ons as Shopify, and the ones they do have are mostly collaborations with other businesses like Print On Demand, shipping or bookkeeping platforms. You won’t find additional features or customization options in the Squarespace extensions.

That means you’re more or less stuck with the features they give you. On the bright side, Squarespace is a complete package, so you should have most of what you need right away instead of searching for it in an app store.

As a whole, Shopify is for people who care less about designing a site and more about the actual selling, whereas Squarespace caters more to people who want the creative freedom to design a custom site, even if it means more work. It’s a question of what you prioritize more, convenience or customization.

Squarespace vs. Shopify: pricing

When comparing the pricing, it’s important to look at what you get for your money. The plans have different price tags, but they also offer different features and different transaction fees per sale.

Shopify has three main plans (Basic, Shopify and Advanced), plus a cheaper Shopify Lite plan for selling only on social media and apps and a more expensive Shopify Plus plan for large enterprises.

  • Shopify Basic – $29 USD/month
  • Shopify – $79 USD/month
  • Shopify Advanced – $299 USD/month

All plans include the fundamentals like unlimited products, 24/7 support and most of the ecommerce features. The sales reports are tiered, with higher-paying packages getting more detailed reports. The Basic plan also receives up to 77% of a shipping discount from DHL Express, USPS and UPS, whereas the discount from other plans can go as high as 88%.

Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Shopify pricing
Shopify pricing

Really, the most important difference in the plans is the transaction fee. Lower-tier plans must pay more for credit card rates, meaning the seller pays more per each sale. That incentivizes buying higher-tier plans if you plan on selling a lot; you can keep more of your earnings.

Squarespace works a little differently. Because it’s not exclusively a platform for ecommerce, only the higher-tier plans allow for sales. Even so, the Business plan only offers the bare bones for selling, so if you’re serious about ecommerce you’ll need one of the Commerce plans.

  • Business – $23 USD/month
  • Basic Commerce – $27 USD/month
  • Advanced Commerce – $49 USD/month

Both the Basic Commerce and Advanced Commerce plans come with all the essentials for ecommerce, including transactional capabilities, unlimited products, and other essentials like product reviews. The Business plan is for people who want to sell a few things on the side, like merchandise, so again serious ecommerce brands will want a Commerce package.

Squarespace vs Shopify 2022: Squarespace pricing
Squarespace pricing

Both Commerce plans are pretty inclusive, but the Advanced Commerce plan has a few extra features that the Basic Commerce plan does not:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Recurring subscription sales
  • Real-time shipping rates
  • Automatic discounts
  • Commerce APIs

Squarespace is generally cheaper than Shopify and even waives the transaction fees for the two Commerce plans. However, Squarespace sellers still have to pay a payment processor fee, which varies depending on Stripe, PayPal, Square or Afterpay/Clearpay.

It’s also worth mentioning that Squarespace only accepts these payment processors, whereas Shopify allows third-party payment processors with an additional fee.

Squarespace vs. Shopify: ecommerce features

The short answer is that Shopify offers more ecommerce features, but whether or not they’re worth the extra money is up to you.

Both Shopify and the Squarespace Commerce plans allow unlimited products, SSL certificates, gift cards, point of sales transactions (with their apps), product reviews, customer accounts and analytics reports. That’s enough to run a successful ecommerce business, although if you have a more precise strategy you may want even more.

Only Shopify offers discount codes or digital coupons if you favor that type of promotion. Additionally, only Shopify offers shipping discounts if you use DHL Express, USPS or UPS, and the ability to buy shipping labels through Shopify Payments. Shopify also offers ecommerce automation that allow you to set time-saving workflows.

Furthermore, only Shopify caters to international sales: currency conversions, language translations and accepting local currency. The Advanced Shopify plan also estimates duties and import taxes at checkout. If you want to sell internationally on Squarespace, you’re stuck with whatever currencies your chosen payment processor accepts.

As mentioned above, Squarespace only offers a limited number of payment processors, so you’re forced to use Stripe, PayPal, Square or Afterpay/Clearpay. Shopify allows you to use third-party processors, but you have to pay an additional per-sale fee of 0.5-2%, to incentivize sellers to just use the built-in Shopify Payments. Still, if your target audience has a strong preference about a particular payment processor, that might make Shopify worth it.

Essentially Shopify offers more intricate ecommerce features for dedicated sellers; but if those specific features don’t apply to you, it’s hard to justify Shopify’s cost.

Final verdict

When deciding between Squarespace and Shopify, there are two questions to ask yourself:

  • How important is customization?
  • How much are you willing to spend?

If you’re looking to build a site quickly without much emphasis on website design, Shopify can get you up and running in under an hour. It’s the easiest and more convenient, but you have to sacrifice design options. Squarespace works better if you have a definite look in mind for your site; if you’re willing to spend more time at it, you’re able to build the site you want, how you want it, without the restrictions of Shopify.

The cost is the other main factor. Shopify tends to be more expensive, with higher transaction fees per sale. Squarespace is the cheaper option but doesn’t offer as much when it comes to international sales, promotional options, or payment processors. What it all comes down to is whether you’re going to use Shopify’s extra features.

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