Wix and Squarespace are built for people who want to build their websites themselves. They are wonderful tools for rolling out short-term projects (I help my wife build a Squarespace site for our wedding), and it’s super easy to get up and running yourself quickly.
WordPress requires a bit more work – you have to download WordPress from WordPress.org, connect it to a database, and sort through 10’s of thousands of themes, some are hideous and some are glorious. If you don’t understand web development, you actually have to get into code at least at some point to get to final product in WordPress.
Squarespace is black box, and Wix is not much different – so if you understand web development, you could really get bogged down in Squarespace and Wix. They have places for custom CSS (the code that changes style attributes for those who don’t know) but things that edit the structure of the site are cordoned off and it’s generally discouraged to get in there.
Squarespace (and Wix as well has matured) are both beautiful black box solutions for non professionals
Where-as WordPress is built for tinkering, has 1,000’s of plugins, themes, and is built for custom coded themes and development modifications
So to me if you’re pursuing web design as a profession or even as a serious hobby – WordPress takes the cake.
You don’t want to be locked into every time you create a site you have to pay 15 bucks a month, especially if you want to create 5 sites just for fun. In my opinion if you’re making websites for a business owner you want to get them out of monthly fees and into ‘I own my website’ and all I need to pay is hosting. Yes hosting can be $4, $5, or $8 bucks a month with an annual commitment on Godaddy, but you can also throw 20 sites on that hosting on the higher end packages, making this quickly more cost effective.
Lastly – differentiating yourself from the non-professional
As a professional web designer, you don’t want people to be wondering ‘why didn’t I just do that myself?’
To me – taking a completely original visual design that was created in illustrator and totally dedicated to a company’s business goals is totally different than modifying an existing template. Thinking in terms of business goals sets professional web designers apart and starts be an obvious value add for clients.
Taking a completely custom visual design and making it into a Wix or Squarespace site is not what those tools were intended for – they want you to modify their existing 40 or so templates and then THEY are the experts not you, as a web designer. And that’s a dangerous place to be in – just the technician implementing what some other expert formulated (for a hypothetical business that’s not the one you’re working with!)