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Shopify vs Squarespace: Which builds the best online stores?

Need an online store? We compare Shopify and Squarespace, two of the best website builders for ecommerce success

Ecommerce is a big part of today’s online economy, not least because it allows you to reach consumers right around the world. To help you pick the right platform for your store we’ve put together a comparison guide for two high-quality website builders with a strong focus on ecommerce – Shopify and Squarespace.

Which one is best for building an online store? To help you decide we shall be comparing both across a selection of essential categories – price, features and ease of use – before delivering our verdict.

If you still can’t make up your mind after reading through the comparisons, or want further clarification on specifics elements of a builder, make sure to check out our full-length reviews of Shopify and Squarespace.

Check prices at Shopify

Check prices at Squarespace

Shopify vs Squarespace: Pricing

Shopify starts out at a reasonable £25/mth for the Basic plan, but if you need to make the step up, the mid-range Shopify plan will set you back £65/mth, while the Advanced plan will cost you an eye-watering £344/mth.

What do you get for your money and why is there such a big gap between plans? The Basic plan includes everything you need to build your store and manage your inventory and transactions. Plus you get basic reporting features and support for two staff accounts. However, you will have to pay the highest rates for Shopify payments, with credit card fees of 2% plus 25p for each online transaction. 

The mid-range Shopify plan provides access to professional reporting features, the creation of up to five staff accounts and a reduced rate on credit card fees of 1.7% + 25p. The Advanced plan gets everything the other plans have, plus a custom report builder and support for up to 15 staff accounts. All plans come with a 10% discount if you pay for a year upfront.

There is a starter plan for only £5/mth, but this only gives a simplified, mobile-focused online store aimed at selling products directly through social media. That’s fine for kick-starting an idea to see how it works, but not much else.

If you want to use a third-party payment provider such as PayPal, you will have to pay further fees – 2% on the Basic plan to 0.5% on the Advanced plan.

Find out more about Shopify pricing

Squarespace is more consumer-focused, has more plans and is typically cheaper. The Personal plan – ideal for a basic site – starts at £12/mth if you pay annually, or £16 on a rolling monthly contract. This does include a custom domain. 

If your focus is selling online, The Business plan offers integrated ecommerce features and website analytics for £17/mth (£24 on a rolling contract). Note there is a 3% transaction fee per sale. To get rid of fees and upgrade to more advanced shopping analytics features, plus additional features for discounting and shipping, there is the Commerce (Basic) package for £23/mth (£28 on a rolling contract) or the Commerce (Advanced) package for £35/mth (£43 on a rolling deal).

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Winner: Squarespace

Squarespace has a better spread of tariffs to suit different types of customers. It’s much cheaper too: Shopify’s mid-range plan is more expensive than Squarespace’s top-of-the-range Advanced plan.

Check prices at ShopifyCheck prices at Squarespace

Shopify vs Squarespace: Features

Shopify is squarely focused on ecommerce so it comes as no surprise that its feature set is built around this. It allows you to add, categorise and tag products, and add to collections from the same screen. There’s also the option to set different sizes, formats, colours and prices. 

Once set up, there is a very comprehensive set of features for tracking customers and sales, while visitor analytics show the paths customers are taking. There is the option to produce marketing emails, complete with a tool to create discount codes and promotions. You can automate marketing campaigns and track their success (or otherwise).

There are useful integrations in Shopify, some of which it will automatically suggest if you are building a specific type of store. It might recommend Printify if you’re building an online store for art prints, for example. Integrations with social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch and Twitter are all accessible through Shopify apps. But it’s worth noting that they are not as well developed as Squarespace.

Squarespace is crammed with useful integrations, including Etsy, from which you can import an existing product catalogue. There’s also good connections with Facebook and Instagram, but you will need a Commerce plan to access those. Squarespace works directly with Stripe and PayPal for taking payments and completing orders, and there are advanced tools to track customers. 

Squarespace integrates neatly with the Unsplash image library, so you will have a wide range of high-quality images to choose from; these can be added to your site in a couple of clicks. Elsewhere, there’s a handy SEO optimisation checklist, access to analytics via Google Search Console, and guides on growing your audience.

Winner: Draw

It’s difficult to choose: both offer great ecommerce features with Shopify offering more advanced features, while Squarespace covers all the features that most consumers want from an online store, plus a few extras. In short, we would choose Squarespace for small business sites and Shopify for larger stores.

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Shopify vs Squarespace: How easy are they to use?

Both of these site builders use a similar, modular system to build stores. However, Shopify is more about customising a template rather than building a website from scratch. It focuses on creating page elements that showcase your products, looking to drive customers towards them. That’s not a bad thing, but you don’t get the flexibility you’ll find in Squarespace. 

An example is fonts. You can set fonts at a global level, but on an individual page level you are restricted to bold, italic or list styles, while sizes only come in small, medium and large. That does at least ensure your design is consistent, but it can be hard to match up with your brand. And it’s not always clear how to customise certain features, which means you face a steeper learning curve than with Squarespace. There is a blogging feature, but this is basic and missing elements you would expect from an ecommerce-focused builder. But, where Shopify lacks native tools, you can look to its ecosystem of add-ons to get what you want.

Squarespace is definitely easier to get to grips with for designers and newbies. It has a consistent UI with easy to master drag-and-drop flexibility, wrapped up in a modular system. It is intuitive and keeps everything neatly aligned – though featured images weren’t as easy to deal with as we had hoped. 

Global changes across a site are easily controlled via the Site Styles sidebar. Here you can make quick changes to layout, formatting and fonts, and there is an option to add animation with only a few clicks. Even with all this creative power at your fingertips, you don’t need to be a design/CSS expert to build a great looking site.

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Winner: Squarespace

Squarespace’s UI is aimed at making the site creation process as simple and intuitive as possible. This makes it the perfect platform for content-light sites and those venturing into the world of ecommerce. If you are looking for a more professional ecommerce experience you need Shopify, but it will take a little longer to master.

Check prices at ShopifyCheck prices at Squarespace

Shopify vs Squarespace: Verdict

Both are great at what they do, but which you need depends on what you want from a website builder. Shopify is fundamentally a website builder for online stores, so if your focus is purely on selling products or services then this is the one to choose. But you will have to pay for the pleasure: there are fewer plans on offer and the prices rise rapidly once past the Basic plan.

Squarespace’s easy to use UI and reasonably priced plans make it the more appealing choice if you’re building a startup store, a low-key ecommerce solution or a smart but simple website.

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