Squarespace, WordPress, Rainmaker: Which is Best? The Ultimate Review.

You want your website to make you look like a hero compared to the competition, right? A website that not only looks and feels fantastic, but also makes it easy for customers to find, know, like, trust and buy from you too.

Who doesn't, right?

A 2013 Google and Ipsos study revealed that a shocking 55% of small businesses still don't have a website. Even amongst the 45% who do, many suffer from business card syndrome - a website that's little more than a description of what they sell, how to contact them and a few stock images.

I don't want that for you. I want you to have a website that grows your business by generating leads and sales far beyond your expectations.

If you're not crazy about the results you're getting online and you want to build a website that will grow your business, or if you're just starting your business and want to build your website right the first time, read on - this post is for you.

You want a website that behaves less like a business card and more like an online business platform - generating leads, making sales and getting your story shared online, it starts with choosing the right foundation for your website.

You can always change platforms later, but switching is a painful process that means hours away from creating value your customers and spending time with your family.

I wrote this review to help you choose the best platform for your business. It focusses on the three platforms I researched and experimented with when I built Localthority.com: SquarespaceWordPress and Rainmaker.

Be sure to read through to the end because I've got a special piece of bonus content for local businesses who want generate more traffic, leads and sales on their website. 

Squarespace vs. WordPress vs. Rainmaker

Squarespace vs. WordPress vs. Rainmaker - a review of 5 criteria

Spoiler alert! There's no "winner."

The "best platform" all depends on the vision for your online business, your level of technical expertise, the type of design you want, the features and functionality you need, your ability to maintain it, the level of support you require and your budget.

In building my website, I've experimented with all of three platforms. I know Squarespace the best because I chose Squarespace for my website. I'm not affiliated with Squarespace in any way - it simply works best for me.

I've broken down my review of Squarespace, WordPress and the New Rainmaker platform into a 5 criteria.

  • Ease of use
  • Design and Customizability
  • Features and Flexibility
  • Maintenance and Support
  • Price

First, give thought to which criteria are most important to you.

Now, grab a coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy! :)

Ease of Use

"Which platform is the most user friendly?"

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Squarespace

User-friendliness is the #1 reason to choose Squarespace.

If you're like me, you probably have zero HTML and CSS experience. Instead of fiddling with technology you'd rather your invest time in producing valuable content and helping your customers. Me too, and Squarespace made my website-building experience a breeze.

The Squarespace Layout Engine makes it easy to produce a professional website

The interface is extraordinarily simple. Everything is drag-and-drop. Adding images, embedding videos and opt-in forms and aligning "content blocks" are all what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG), eliminating almost all trial and error. The built-in "Style Editor" makes it easy to change fonts, colours, spacing and more - and it works with every design template.

With Squarespace, you can easily build an entire website without ever typing a line of code - but the flexibility to do so is there in case you need it.

I've had to use CSS only once and it was as easy as copying and pasting from Squarespace's incredible Help section.

If you'd rather not climb a huge learning curve, the Squarespace platform is a wise investment that will pay dividends by getting technology out of the way so you can focus on the final product, not the technology behind it.

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Wordpress

WordPress isn't so simple. The learning curve is steep. Unless you're a pro, you'll likely need help setting up your website and fixing it when it breaks (which it will, at some point - more on this later).

The WordPress visual editor is a challenging experience, especially for beginners

If you don't have HTML and CSS experience, the clunky visual editor will cause some headaches. Different WordPress themes respond differently to changes you make in the visual editor. What you see is not what you get so trial and error is the name of the game.

Making simple adjustments like fine-tuning alignment, changing fonts or text colours requires CSS code to get the result you're looking for.

On the other hand, if you have coding experience, can hire someone who does or learn it yourself, WordPress won't hold you back.

Don't be discouraged yet. Read on, because WordPress has a lot of advantages.

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Rainmaker

Rainmaker improves the WordPress experience by eliminating to need to learn and manage most technology while providing fantastic content marketing functionality that's missing from platforms like Squarespace. In many respects, Rainmaker accomplishes this goal.

The New Rainmaker content improves the WordPress experience but is far from WYSIWYG

The Rainmaker interface is a step ahead of WordPress, but still relies on the painful visual editor and therefore a lot of trial-and-error to get the design you want.

Often (although not as often as with WordPress), you'll need HTML and CSS code to change visual aspects of your Rainmaker site. For beginners like me who have no desire to learn HTML and CSS, this is a deal-breaker.

Rainmaker is gradually expanding its "Styles" tool that makes it easy to change a number of style elements that would otherwise require custom CSS input. Styles is currently available on only 5 of their 27 themes.

Rainmaker has a slight edge over WordPress in ease of use, but it's no match for Squarespace.

Summary

User-friendliness is subjective - it all depends on your experience and the learning curve you're prepared to negotiate. If you've got a black belt in HTML and CSS, all three platforms are going to seem straightforward to you. For most people, though, Squarespace is the clear choice where user-friendliness is the name of the game.

 

Design and Customizability

"Which one lets me produce a beautiful website that looks exactly the way I want it?"

A website's design depends on three factors.

  • The variety of themes (or templates) available
  • The quality of those themes and the experience they deliver across different devices
  • The ability to fine-tune visual elements of your theme to get exactly the style you want

I touched how you can fine-tune visual elements with each platform in Ease of Use, above, so for this section, I'll focus on what tools are available beyond the content editor itself.

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Squarespace

On the date this article was published, Squarespace offered 26 templates.

All Squarespace templates are extremely high quality, professionally built and maintained. Every Squarespace templates is fully responsive. They look great on any device or screen size - from smartphones, to tablets, laptops and full-size desktop computers.

Squarespace offers 26 beautifully-designed templates and tools to customize the look and feel of your website

While 26 templates is relatively limited, Squarespace's LayoutEngine puts you in control of your template, offering tons of opportunities to customize it.

You can also install multiple templates on your site, and work on multiple designs at once. When you finally decide which one you want to run with, you can make it live with a single click. Squarespace also makes it easy to change templates anytime.

Squarespace includes a free set of high quality Google and Typekit fonts to use on your website without embedding font kits or paying additional fees. There's also a built-in Aviary image editor for fine-tuning your images.

Squarespace supports images for high-resolution (or high-dpi) retina displays, found on most new iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and other devices. Simply upload a large image and scale it down in the content editor to ensure it's the size you want while looking crystal-clear on any device.

Lastly, Squarespace Logo is an online logo generator that's free for all Squarespace customers. It's great for creating simple logos for new products, services and websites.

Squarespace design quality is second to none and there are plenty of built-in tools you can use to fine-tune the visual elements of your website. That tools are limited to what Squarespace offers, though - beyond that, if you're feeling adventurous you can always apply custom CSS. For most users, Squarespace's design flexibility is more than adequate, although it's far from unlimited.

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WordPress

When this article was published, WordPress offered a whopping 2764 free themes on its website (630 of which are responsive), with tens of thousands more themes available for purchase around the Internet from sites like WooThemesStudioPress and ThemeForest.

WordPress offers 630+ free responsive themes and growing

WordPress is open-source. Anyone can develop, publish and give away or sell themes. This means a huge number of themes to choose from, and a wide range of:

  • Quality, from extremely poor to top-notch intricately designed themes
  • Maintenance and support, from frequent, timely updates, to orphaned themes that are ignored by their developers (this is important because themes can "break" when there's a WordPress update - which can be a major headache if your theme's developer isn't on the ball)
  • Price, from free to $100 or more per theme (generally the higher the price, the better the quality and support)

Retina image support can be added to WordPress by installing a third-party plugin. A plugin is like an app that adds extra functionality to your website.

Font kits can also be purchased and installed on WordPress. Like themes, quality, support and prices of font kits vary.

Your ability to design your website exactly the way you want it is virtually unlimited with WordPress. The only drawbacks are:

  • the cost and time required to filter through countless number of themes, font packs and plugins to find the ones you want
  • the need learn to write HTML and custom CSS code - or hire a professional who can do it for you.
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Rainmaker

Today, Rainmaker offers 27 (StudioPress) themes. Every theme is super high quality and responsive to screens of virtually any size.

Rainmaker offers 27 high-quality themes by StudioPress

On the upside, you don't have to filter through thousands of themes to find a high-quality, responsive theme. All Rainmaker themes are included with your subscription - simply pick the one you like, install it with a single click, and start building.

The best part is, Rainmaker takes care of all WordPress and theme upgrades, maintenance and support. You never have to worry about your theme "breaking" and finding yourself having to put humpty dumpty together again.

On the downside, there are only 27. Limiting coding-challanged people like me even further, only 5 Rainmaker themes currently support Style mode - which helps you to customize fonts, colours, spacing and more without learning (or paying someone to code in) custom CSS.

Rainmaker doesn't support retina graphics (yet), meaning images on your website will be scaled up by devices such as iPhone 4 or later, iPad 3 or later, and many other recent smartphones, tablets and laptops. Scaled-up images will look slightly blurry or pixelated, not crystal-clear.

Summary

If you want top quality design templates, the ability to customize your templates without coding, and don't mind being limited to a few dozen templates, you should seriously consider Squarespace.

If you want maximum flexibility and virtually unlimited freedom to design your website exactly the way you want it, and don't mind filtering through thousands of themes to find one that inspires you, WordPress will give you the freedom you want.

If you want the power of Wordpress and only top-quality design, but no maintenance headaches and don't mind being limited to a few dozen themes that need custom CSS to customize them, Rainmaker probably gives you the balance you're looking for.

 

Features and Flexibility 

"Which platform gives me the functionality and flexibility I need?"

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Squarespace

Features and extensibility are the biggest disadvantage of Squarespace.

Squarespace isn't open source, meaning outside developers have limited ability to create tools and plugins. Most users are limited to the tools and plugins Squarespace provides, in addition to features and content you can embed by pasting HTML or Javascript code into a code block.

Squarespace offers its own analytics and the ability to plug into Google Analytics without writing any code

Squarespace offers a variety of features, including commerce, list building (via Mailchimp), commenting (including optional Disqus), analytics (including optional Google Analytics), blogging, galleries and more. They also integrate with many popular services like Facebook, Flickr, Amazon, OpenTable, Google Docs, and Dropbox, to name a few.

Squarespace also offers free Blog, Gallery and Metrics apps for iPhone and iPad that let you draft, edit and publish posts on the go, manage your galleries, and check basic site analytics.

The upside is all Squarespace tools are super high quality, fully integrated into the Squarespace experience, and professionally maintained and supported.

The downside is some users may find themselves feeling limited by the functionality and flexibility Squarespace offers.

A few tools I wish Squarespace offered include:

  • Landing page templates and analytics
  • A/B testing
  • SEO keyword research
  • Paypal integration
  • Membership site

Squarespace adds new tools all the time, but not nearly at the pace of WordPress - so it's a good thing I'm a patient guy. :)

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WordPress

Here's where WordPress shines.

When this article was published, WordPress offered a massive 33,567 plugins that in their words "extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine." If you can dream it, there's probably a plugin that can do it.

WordPress also scales beautifully. Whether your website is a simple blog or a huge online store, resource or publication, WordPress plugins can deliver the functionality you need and the user experience you want.

Sounds fantastic, right? It is, but there are downsides too. Like we did with themes, it boils down to the same three considerations:

  • Quality. Plugins vary in quality from terrible to top-notch.
  • Maintenance and support. Every developer maintains and supports their own plugins. There are plenty of orphaned plugins that get little-to-no support or updates. There are also plenty of rock-solid developers who beautifully maintain their plugins. Do your research.
  • Price. Plugins range from free to $50 or more per plugin (again, the higher the price, the better the quality and support you can expect). Like themes, you may have to buy, install and experience multiple plugins before you find the one that's exactly what you're looking for.

Time is your most precious resource. Researching, installing, setting up, and experimenting with multiple plugins can be a very time consuming endeavour.

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Rainmaker

Although its foundation is WordPress, Rainmaker doesn't offer nearly the number of plugins that WordPress does - but it doesn't need to.

Rainmaker landing page templates are integrated into the experience

Dubbed "more power and less hassle" than WordPress, Rainmaker includes a carefully curated set of top-quality plugins that are seamlessly integrated into the Rainmaker experience. The objective is to take care of all the messy under-the-hood stuff that comes with WordPress, so you can focus on your customer and your content.

Rainmaker does a great job of covering the content marketing bases - analytics, blogging, landing pages, A/B testing, list building, podcasting, membership sites, an affiliate management system, and commerce for digital products. 

Rainmaker makes it easy to select and target keywords with its integrated keyword research tool

Rainmaker provides functionality many WordPress users buy separately from companies like LeadPages (for landing pages), Libsyn (for podcasting), Unbound (for content optimization) and more.

As for Squarespace, keyword research and A/B tests on my content is still a dream.

What's holding me back from switching to Rainmaker? The time I'd need to invest in designing a Rainmaker website. I'm most inspired by the "Rainmaker Pro" theme, but it doesn't support Styles, which means using custom CSS to get the design I want. No thanks.

Rainmaker's features are limited compared to the vast universe of WordPress plugins. The upside is assurance of high quality, deeply integrated features and a no-hassle WordPress experience. It's early days for Rainmaker, and I can't wait to see what features they add next!

Summary

Squarespace is your best bet if you need a professional website and your needs aren't extraordinarily complex. Make use of the free trial so you can explore Squarespace's existing tools and find out for yourself.

WordPress offers maximum functionality and flexibility, as long as you're willing to invest the money to buy it, and the time to research your options, install and maintain it.

You should consider Rainmaker if your focus is content marketing (whose isn't nowadays, anyways?), you're selling only digital products or memberships, and want top quality, deeply integrated functionality without investing your time in the research, maintenance and technical baggage that normally comes with WordPress.

 

Maintenance and Support

"Which platform is least likely to cause me headaches?"

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Squarespace

With Squarespace, all maintenance, upgrades, bug fixes and security patches are done for you and pushed to your website. It's simple and completely worry-free.

When it comes to support, the Squarespace experience blows my mind.

They have excellent self-serve options. I find the answer to almost every question in their Help Centre and Answers community.

Beyond that, Squarespace provides 24/7 email support that promises to respond in about an hour. In my experience, they've never broken that promise, but often over-deliver with responses in as little as 5 minutes.

Squarespace also offers live chat support on weekdays from 3am to 8pm eastern time.

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WordPress

WordPress often (multiple times per year) updates its platform to fix bugs and address security issues. Whenever a new version of WordPress is published, you need to update your website.

It's a challenge to find helpful information wading through millions of posts in the WordPress support forum

Themes and plugins are a bit more complicated. While many theme and plugin developers are extremely responsive and make it easy for you to update them so your website can continue to function, many do not. If your theme or one of your plugins aren't updated to work with the latest version of WordPress, your website's performance could be affected. Worse, entire features may stop working and in some cases, your entire website could crash.

WordPress support is mostly community-driven. There's official WordPress documentation, but most users get support from a discussion forum where they can search for problems, and discuss and recommend solutions. The problem is the forum is HUGE and it can be excruciating to fund relevant and helpful information.

With such a wide variety of themes and plugins, the user best suited to help you when issues arise is the original developer. Some of them are quite reputable and willing to help, whereas others are not and can even be impossible to find.

If you decide to go with WordPress, your best bet is to sign up for a support service like WPCurve to make sure you have the support you need, when you need it. I've never used them, because I chose to build my website on Squarespace, but I have friends who rave about them.

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Rainmaker

Like Squarespace, all Rainmaker maintenance, upgrades, bug fixes and security patches are done for you and automatically applied to your website. Easy peasy.

When it comes to support, the Rainmaker experience is rock-solid.

There's an info-packed Knowledge Base and multiple guides to walk you through common processes like getting your site setup initially, creating a membership site, selling digital products and more.

Beyond that, Rainmaker provides email support that responds quickly, although not as consistently fast as Squarespace.

Summary

Squarespace sets the maintenance and support bar extremely high. Rainmaker is a close second, and like Squarespace, support is included with your subscription. With WordPress, you're in control but when maintenance is needed or issues arise, you must be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work - or pay someone to do it for you. 

 

Price

"How much it cost to build a website on Squarespace, WordPress and Rainmaker (and maintain it)?"

In small business, every dollar counts, right? That's why it's important to consider how much it will cost you initially, and on an ongoing basis to build and maintain your website. 

I didn't provide a star-rating for each platform's price, for three reasons:

  • Cheaper doesn't always mean better
  • The platform that can be the cheapest (WordPress) can also be the most expensive (in terms of both time and money)
  • I didn't make my choice based solely on price, nor should you

All prices below are quoted in USD.

Squarespace

Squarespace offers 3 packages ranging from $8-24/month, all of which include a custom domain ($10-15 value) and 24/7 support.

Squarespace costs between $96-$360 per year

A few additional considerations:

  • Not all top level domains (TLD's) are available for the free custom domain. For example, .ca isn't offered so I had to buy it separately from Hover.com
  • Use a Squarespace coupon to save 10% off your first purchase
  • You can also hire a Squarespace developer if you want something ultra-complex or specific, but the vast majority of users don't need one

WordPress

WordPress itself is free, but that doesn't mean building and maintaining a WordPress site is.

To get started, you'll need:

With WordPress, budget for ongoing maintenance and support

  • A domain ($10-15). Some hosting companies such as the popular Bluehost include a domain.
  • A theme ($0-$100). Caution: You may not end up using the first one you buy, so budget for a few.
  • Plugins ($0-50). Caution: You may not end up using the first plugin you buy to add each new feature, so budget for a few. How many plugins you buy will also depend on how much functionality you want to add to your site.
  • In addition, if you want a specific design and don't have HTML or CSS coding experience (or aren't willing to learn), you may have to hire a WordPress developer to build your site for you (ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars).

Your initial investment is likely to range from $50-400, depending on which themes or plugins you decide to buy, and the domain you choose.

To maintain your WordPress site, you'll need:

  • A hosting service ($5-10/month)
  • A support service ($69-99/month)

Rainmaker

Rainmaker offers a single, all-in-one package at $95/month, including:

  • All current features
  • A bunch of future features
  • A membership to Authority, the online and content marketing education community by Copyblogger
  • Awesome email support

At $95/month, Rainmaker is an incredible value when you consider the cost of similar functionality and support in a barebones WordPress environment:

  • Hosting ($5/month)
  • Support ($69/month)
  • Landing Pages ($37/month)
  • Podcast Hosting ($15/month)
  • Content Optimization ($49/month)
  • and more!

Rainmaker pricing includes all current and some future features

A few additional points:

  • With Rainmaker, you'll need to buy your own domain ($10-15)
  • You can also hire a Rainmaker developer if you want a specific design. Most users don't need one, but it's an option if you have specific needs and aren't experienced with HTML or CSS.

Summary

If you want minimal initial investment and consistent monthly costs with no surprises, Squarespace or the New Rainmaker platform are the way to go, depending on the functionality you need.

If you need maximum functionality and flexibility, can manage a larger upfront investment, and are okay with medium ongoing costs with the possibility of the odd maintenance curveball, WordPress is the platform for you.

 

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right platform for YOUR business will save you time, money and headaches so you can focus your resources on what's most important - providing your customers with extraordinary value and service.

Squarespace - $0 to get started, $8-24/month

5 stars

Ease of Use

4 stars

Design and Customizability

2 stars

Features and Flexibility

5 stars

Maintenance and Support

Squarespace 7 Review Update

On October 7, 2014, Squarespace launched the newest iteration of their platform, Squarespace 7.

New features include a fresh new interface, 15 new design templates, 12 landing pages (finally!), integration with Getty Images and Google Apps, new mobile apps for Android and more.

You're probably wondering if Squarespace 7 changes my star-ratings. Not quite. Here's why:

Ease of Use - The best interface just got even better with on-page editing and device view to emulate devices like smartphones and tablets (no more picking up my iPhone to see what a page looks like on a smartphone).

Design and Customizability - 15 more beautiful, highly- and easily-customizable templates, but still a small number compared to WordPress.

Features and Flexibility - Landing pages and new integrations are excellent additions, but a few key online marketing are still missing.

Maintenance and Support - Still the best in the business.

Wordpress - $50-400 to get started, $5-100/month

2 stars

Ease of Use

5 stars

Design and Customizability

5 stars

Features and Flexibility

2 stars

Maintenance and Support

Rainmaker - $0 to get started, $95/month

3 stars

Ease of Use

2 stars

Design and Customizability

3 stars

Features and Flexibility

4 stars

Maintenance and Support

BONUS! Get better results from your website.

So that's it.

If you use Squarespace, WordPress or Rainmaker, tell me in the comments what you love (and hate) about it.

Choosing a platform is a critical first step towards creating a website that consistently produces traffic, leads and sales for your business.

Already have website?

Click below to schedule a free website review and get my top 5 recommendations to increase traffic and generate more business online.

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About me

Hi! I’m Christian Newman, award-winning marketing guy, website designer and digital strategist in Surrey, BC. I'm also a proud  fan, foodie, hubby, dad and Canadian. I'm on a mission to help offline businesses grow in a digital world.