I was chatting with a potential client about their website and their goals recently and asked whether they had any questions. They said, "Why should I use Joomla over Squarespace?" It's an interesting question many people are considering in light of Squarespace's recent media blitz. It's especially thought provoking when you consider that a Squarespace website is many times cheaper than having a company like Blue Bridge develop your site. In this post, I explain the key benefits and drawbacks of using a service like Squarespace.
Web Sites and Dog Food
There is a US company that provides everything you need to take care of your dog. It includes dog food, emergency veterinary visits, and all the shots and vaccinations your pet requires. In exchange, you pay a monthly fee. As a dog owner, this is very attractive to me- my lab Sunny has had some knee buckling vet bills.
This is a service based model, where you pay a recurring amount and a business handles a problem for you. Squarespace works the same way, but with software. In the industry, this is called Software as a Service , or SaaS. It's a successful model because it solves a common problem at scale, like a web design firm building websites for tens of thousands of people a year instead of just ten to twelve.
One Size Does Not Fit All
The most important part of the equation when comparing Squarespace to Joomla is that Squarespace solves a common problem. As soon as your needs deviate from the norm, you're going to feel the walls of the service Squarespace provides. This service works how it works and they're not going to change things even to satisfy your smallest slightly different requirement.
Joomla, on the other hand, is an open system that anyone can work on, improve, and modify to their needs. In fact, some of the core value that Joomla provides is its nuanced extensibility to be the Swiss Army knife of platforms. Many solutions to more uncommon problems are published for others to use and it has an extension directory with thousands of solutions to address a cornucopia of situations.
This brings up the other main benefit that a platform like Joomla has over a service like Squarespace: there is an open system of providers creating a much larger range of possible solutions. When I recently counted, Squarespace provides 25 beautiful templates. There are hundreds, if not thousands of, beautiful (and ugly) Joomla templates available and it's possible for a designer to create a custom template unique to your market to set your website apart from the crowd.
To compare this back to dog food, if my dog doesn't like the food or has an allergy to it, the service no longer works for me. In the same vein, if I don't like the vet that the service provides me, I can't go find my own and expect the service to cover them.
This isn't to say that I think Joomla is the solution for everyone. On the contrary, I would recommend a service like Squarespace to many mom and pop's businesses and anyone else who has very straightforward needs and is willing to put in a bit of work on the project. There is a lot of value there for a large segment of users and what Squarespace does provide is of high quality. However, if your website is a core part of your business model, it's almost certain that you have several unique requirements and you would be wise to carefully consider the limits of growing a site in a closed system like Squarespace.