If you’re searching for the best eCommerce website builder, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we take an in-depth look at Squarespace, a well-established website builder with beautiful eCommerce templates, and Big Cartel, a popular eCommerce platform for building online shops.
I’ve researched and reviewed both site builders to help you gain a better understanding of what they offer, and how they can help you design, build, and run a successful online store.
Read on to get a closer look at their core features, including ease-of-use, design and customization, eCommerce functionality, blogging features, SEO tools, support, and pricing to give you a better idea of which site builder is best for you.
1. Ease of Use
Top website builders are designed to be easy to use. They come with drag-and-drop editors and intuitive interfaces to allow non-technical users to build their websites visually.
After all, the last thing you want is to invest a lot of your valuable time and money setting up an eCommerce store, and tweaking the design, only to find that it’s a hassle to manage day-to-day.
With that in mind, let’s see how these two site builders compare in terms of ease of use.
Squarespace is an all-in-one platform with tools to build and market your website. You can use it to create a full-scope website from scratch, or you can pick a Squarespace template to serve as a foundation for your new site. Using a template will help to speed things up, and there are many to choose from in different categories and industries.
When talking about ease of use, it’s also important to consider the user interface of the editor on the website builder.
Squarespace has a simple yet powerful editor that makes it easy for you to customize your chosen template by just clicking on different elements like text, images, buttons, or backgrounds to change colors, styles, fonts, etc.
With such an easy-to-use editor, managing your website content will not be stressful. Simply use the platform’s sections and content blocks as the building components for your pages.
The content blocks include things such as text, buttons, forms, images, maps, etc. Put these together in any combination, and they make a section. The sections are then stacked vertically on your website and voila! you’ve got a page.
As you can see, this greatly hastens the website-building process. But, if you feel like showing off your own creativity, you can build your site from scratch or choose from the library of pre-designed sections to create your own layouts.
Summary of Squarespace’s Ease of Use Features:
- All-in-one website-building platform
- In-depth tutorials for getting started
- Intuitive drag-and-drop design system
- Integrated website management tools, no third-party plugins necessary
- Free, unlimited website hosting for your website, blog, or eCommerce store
Big Cartel makes it easy for you to build a unique online shop, sell your work, or run a creative business. There’s a simple onboarding process, and there are no complex processes to contend with.
All you have to do is choose a plan, and then log onto your dashboard where you’ll be able to access all the different options for website design, product listing, payment setup, and more. Even complete beginners will find the process simple and intuitive. Unlike other eCommerce store builders, there aren’t too many features that overwhelm users.
The drag-and-drop website builder simplifies the entire process from building your store to adding products to putting your logo, product titles, descriptions, and payment methods. Just follow the Getting Started Checklist on your dashboard, and you’ll be selling your products online in no time.
Summary of Big Cartel’s Ease of Use Features:
- Simple interface that is easy to learn for beginners
- Pre-built eCommerce templates
- The platform supports third-party plugins
- Getting Started Checklist to simplify onboarding
- You can access it from a website or iOS app
Winner: Big Cartel
Squarespace has a lot to offer, including beautiful template designs, user-friendly features, and a fast-loading well-coded website. However, this also means that the platform comes with an initial steep learning curve.
Big Cartel wins this round because in addition to having lots of ready-made layouts, all of which are super easy to use, the entire platform is designed with users in mind who have zero technical skills.
It’s extremely easy to add a blog, shopping cart, or any other features you want to further extend your website’s functionality. All of it can be done with a single click by choosing from the list of well-categorized widgets.
2. Design and Customization
As any website owner will tell you, first impressions count. That’s why it’s important to choose a site builder that helps you design and create professional-looking websites.
Fortunately, both Big Cartel and Squarespace have great-looking templates that come pre-configured with a lot of the features you need. This makes your job a whole lot easier since you won’t have to start building your site from scratch.
Let’s see how these two site builders compare in this category.
With regard to design and customization, Squarespace is about as easy as it gets for beginners. Most of the templates are designed to work right out of the box, which means once you swap out the placeholder content for your own, you are ready to publish your fully functional website.
You’ll be able to customize a visually appealing page with just a few clicks. Everything is cleanly coded by default, and even when you add new pages to your website, you don’t have to start from scratch. Just choose the template you like best, and add it to your new site with a click.
Squarespace also has a photo editing tool that helps you create eye-catching visuals for your website. Use it to add filters, adjust image brightness, and alter saturation and contrast. You can do all of this on the Squarespace interface without having to jump to third-party tools like Photoshop.
In addition to the Squarespace templates and themes, advanced users can also add HTML/CSS to further customize their website, but only on the higher-tier plans.
Summary of Squarespace’s Design and Customization Features:
- Massive selection of typefaces
- Modern, clean, and aesthetically pleasing layouts
- Fully responsive website designs
- Getty Images integration for high-quality stock photos
- Fluid Engine for complete control over mobile and desktop versions
Big Cartel is a store builder made for creatives. It has dozens of online shop themes to choose from. You won’t have to build your online store from scratch, but compared to Squarespace, you may find Big Cartel’s templates subpar in terms of design and flexibility.
You don’t have quite as many options for customizing your designs, and some of them look a bit dated. Of course, you can build your store from scratch or, if you have knowledge of CSS, you can make more in-depth changes to the templates.
Unlike Squarespace, Big Cartel themes do not offer basic visual features, such as the “zoom” feature on product images. And, since we know that conversion depends a lot on visual stimuli, the lack of such features is a huge problem if you want to build an eCommerce store that showcases products in detail.
Summary of Big Cartel’s Design and Customization Features:
- Built-in marketing tools
- All-in-one eCommerce tool to set up online stores
- 3rd-party integrations available
- Deep template customization via CSS editing
- Well-curated web design tips and prompts
Squarespace wins nearly every contest for design and customization because of its impressive range of modern, stylish, templates. All of them look good and come with additional design options to help you further customize your site to make it uniquely you.
Both site builders are ideal for users with very little to no coding experience, but Squarespace has a much larger theme library compared to Big Cartel.
3. eCommerce Capabilities
When it comes to eCommerce and store management, it’s crucial to choose a website builder that provides you with sophisticated eCommerce features for a seamless experience for both you, the store manager, and your customers. Let’s see what you get with Squarespace vs. Big Cartel.
Squarespace provides you with all the basics you need to start and grow your online store. The eCommerce integrations on the platform include a wide range of online store templates to help you build unique storefronts. You also get secure payments and tools to sell physical products, digital products, and services.
You can add sophisticated web forms to your products to gather additional information before customers checkout. There’s also an inventory management system and built-in tools for shipping, automatic tax calculation, and more.
It’s clear that Squarespace has much to offer in terms of eCommerce functionality, and this list of features can be further extended using third-party apps and widgets.
Summary of Squarespace’s eCommerce Capabilities:
- Beautiful online store templates are available
- Faster speed for an enhanced online shopping experience
- Sell physical and digital products, services, and subscriptions
- Add web forms to your products
- Access CSS via a dedicated CSS editor
Big Cartel has decent eCommerce tools, but for the most part, the platform relies on third-party app integrations for tools like email and social media marketing, payment processing, blog functionality, and more.
You can get all of these features on the free plan, but if you want to integrate advanced marketing, sales, and analytics tools on your platform, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan.
On Big Cartel, you’re limited in the types of products you can sell. You can only sell physical products, but you cannot sell services of any kind.
You can easily manage basic features like product and inventory management, as well as shipping and payment options from your dashboard. But, if you want features like bulk editing, you will have to sign up for a higher-tier plan.
This platform isn’t ideal for sellers with bigger catalogs of 500 or more products as you are limited to that number on the highest tier plan.
One huge plus of using Big Cartel is that unlike many other eCommerce platforms, it doesn’t charge fees or take a cut of your sales which means you get to keep all your money.
Summary of Big Cartel’s eCommerce Capabilities:
- Multiple payment options are offered, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.
- No transaction fees on any of the plans
- Instant checkout when using Stripe on Big Cartel
- Simple management of products and inventory
- Affordable platform with eCommerce features on the free plan
Overall, Squarespace has a more comprehensive set of features for eCommerce. These include everything from calendar and inventory management tools to social media integration, analytics, top-notch apps, and extensions, and even tools for helping you calculate your taxes.
However you look at it, Squarespace makes the process of running an eCommerce business as smooth and seamless as possible which makes it a great choice for small to medium-sized eCommerce businesses.
4. Blogging Tools
In addition to having built-in eCommerce tools to help you showcase your products in the best light, you also want a website builder with built-in blogging functionality so you can attract visitors from Google and other search engines.
Let’s see what types of blogging tools you get with each site builder.
Squarespace is well-designed for blogging. It comes with a wide range of blogging-specific templates to choose from. These are stylish, modern, and well-optimized to ensure your blog has a good chance of ranking online.
You can create blog posts, save them as drafts, post them right away, or schedule them for later publishing. Add tags or category data to your blog articles, enable or disable comments on individual pages, and leverage advanced integrations to search optimize your blog posts.
Squarespace also enables you to automatically share your blog posts with your social media audience or send new posts to your readers as email campaigns. This is possible with the platform’s built-in tools designed to save you time and effort when marketing your blog.
Additionally, you get a range of high-quality blogging features, such as the ability to add podcasts. The platform also facilitates collaboration by allowing you to add multiple authors to your website.
You also get advanced features like code injection which you can use to add HTML and scripts to further enhance specific parts of your website.
Summary of Squarespace’s Blogging Tools:
- 30+ blog-specific templates available
- Add podcast episodes to your blog
- Add multiple authors to help with content management
- Code injection feature for advanced customization
- Easily share blog posts via social media and email
Unfortunately, Big Cartel does not come with built-in blogging functionality. Of course, there are ways and means to add a blog to your Big Cartel website, but they’re not as easy or intuitive as Squarespace.
If you don’t intend to add a blog to your website, then this is something that won’t affect you much. However, for most users who intend to publish blog content on their sites, this may be a dealbreaker, and it’s the biggest downside of using this platform for your eCommerce store.
Squarespace provides you with all the tools you need in one place. This includes easy integration of a blog to your website or online store in one click. You’ll get blogging features all the blogging features you need built right in, making it easy for you to manage all your products and content from one place.
Big Cartel, on the other hand, doesn’t come with built-in blogging features. Although you can add a third-party app to run your blog, the process is not easy, and you will need to know some code to get everything set up properly.
5. Search Engine Optimization Tools
Whether you’re running a blog, eCommerce store, or simple website, SEO is an unavoidable part of the process. You need a site builder with built-in SEO tools that make it easy for you to help your site rank on Google and other search engines.
Here’s what each site builder offers in terms of SEO.
Squarespace has a range of SEO features to help you build your website the right way. Every Squarespace website and web store comes with built-in mobile optimization, clean URLs, SSL security, and various other SEO settings to hit the ground ranking.
Like Wix, Squarespace also offers a range of advanced SEO tools that you can leverage to optimize your website for search. You’ll find all the SEO page settings available on your dashboard, from page titles and descriptions to image settings, site maps, automatic markups, and more.
Summary of Squarespace’s SEO Features:
- Powerful built-in SEO features for pages and items
- Built-in mobile optimization
- Social image-sharing control
- Settings to hide pages from search engines
- SEO checklist for best practices
- Google search console integration for valuable visitor data
Big Cartel does not offer blogging tools, but, by default, the platform ensures quality SEO for all your product pages. The website builder has built-in SEO settings designed to help your online store rank high in search engines.
For example, a sitemap is automatically generated for you when you create your site. You also get unique meta-descriptions for each of your web pages, including meta-keywords for any major categories you have in your online store. You can fill in or adjust all the SEO settings on your dashboard with ease.
Summary of Big Cartel’s Search Engine Optimization Tools:
- Unique meta descriptions for your pages
- Built-in SEO features for product pages
- Meta keywords for all major product categories
- An automatic sitemap is created for each site
Squarespace’s range of built-in SEO features is automatically applied to each new website. This means that your Squarespace website will be well-optimized straight out of the box, and all you have to do is tweak a few settings. Even if you have no idea what to do, never fear. Squarespace has a built-in SEO wizard to guide you through all the different things you need to do to get your web optimization up to par.
Like Squarespace, Big Cartel also provides built-in SEO features. The platform makes it easy to maintain clear website navigation, provide clean URLs, and automatically allocate alt tags for images.
6. Community and Support
Both site builders offer multiple support options, including extensive knowledge bases, FAQs, video tutorials, and various other resources.
Squarespace has a number of customer support channels through which you can get assistance from the support team.
There’s an active customer forum where you can ask questions and get specific answers. You can also find answers in the website’s knowledge base which is packed full of documentation and resources, as well as tips and tricks to help you make the most of the website-building platform.
If you need to talk to someone to help resolve your concerns, you can do so via the live chat on the website which is available Monday through Friday.
Big Cartel has a help center or knowledge base that is stocked with a range of topics related to building your online website or store.
However, if you should require additional assistance from an actual human, you will have to make do with email from Monday to Friday, between 9 AM and 6 PM.
Squarespace has a lot to offer in case you come up against any roadblocks when building your website. You’ll get reliable support through the platform’s knowledge base, as well as email support, social media support, and live chat support.
When it comes to pricing and value for money, it’s worth taking the time to consider what each of these platforms has to offer. This way, you’ll be able to choose a plan that provides you with all the features you need and avoid paying for unnecessary bells and whistles.
Squarespace has 4 growth-focused plans to choose from depending on your needs. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial on the website.
The premium plans are as follows:
- Personal Plan: $16/Month: Squarespace’s basic plan gives you access to premade templates with which you can build a website, blog, or store. You can choose from dozens of templates designed to fit your business or personal goals. You also get a free domain for one year on which you can create your new website.
- Basic Commerce Plan: $27/Month: The Squarespace Commerce plan has all the features in the Business plan, as well as advanced selling tools to help you grow your business. There are no transaction fees, and you get powerful merchandising tools built-in to help you boost sales, including the ability to display related products, drive urgency with low-stock alerts, and offer product wait lists.
- Advanced Commerce Plan: $49/Month: This plan includes all the features in the Basic Commerce plan. It also comes with tools for advanced sellers, including advanced shipping, advanced discounting, and the ability to sell subscriptions. You also get the abandoned cart recovery tool and commerce APIs to help you build custom integrations to third-party systems in your back end.
Big Cartel has 3 simple plans to help you create the perfect online store for your business. Each plan comes with an easy store builder, pre-made website themes, and expert customer support.
Here’s what else you get when you sign up:
- Gold Features: $0/Month: You can sign up for a free plan on Big Cartel with no credit card required. You’ll be able to add up to 5 products with one image per product. You’ll also get free customizable themes and tools to sell online and in person. You can use a custom domain and get access to shipment tracking, sales tax autopilot, and real-time stats for your online store.
- Platinum Features: $9.99/Month: This plan lets you list up to 50 products with no listing fees. You get all the features in the Gold plan, and you can add up to 5 images per product. Other features include theme code editing, Google Analytics integration, inventory tracking tools, and bulk editing tools.
- Diamond Features: $19.99/Month: This plan is basically the same as the Platinum plan, except that you can add up to 500 products. It’s ideal for you if you’re ready to scale your eCommerce business to the next level.
Winner: Big Cartel
Big Cartel wins this one because it has a free plan that lets you get started selling online risk-free. In fact, not many eCommerce builders offer free plans. Additionally, Big Cartel’s premium plans are super affordable, especially if you pay annually.
But, it’s important to note that the plans have limited features compared to a site builder like Squarespace. For this reason, it may be worth considering the higher price of Squarespace if you want to get access to the wider list of value-added and advanced features for building your eCommerce store.
I hope this guide has helped you determine which is the best eCommerce website builder to suit your needs. It’s clear to see that both site builders have much to offer.
Big Cartel is well-suited to artists and independent sellers who want a quick and easy way to create an online store to sell individual items. Squarespace is ideal for small businesses looking to scale beyond casual selling.
If you’re still not sure, here’s a quick summary to help you determine which platform is right for you.
Choose Squarespace if: You want a reliable website builder that seamlessly merges ease-of-use with advanced design customization to help you build beautiful, full-featured websites as quickly as possible.
On Squarespace, you’re paying a premium for convenience, but you also get a wider range of built-in features across the board which means you’ll get more bang for your buck. You might also want to check out my Squarespace review to learn all there is about the tool, in detail.
Alternatively, check out some of my other comparisons:
- Wix vs. Squarespace
- Bluehost vs. Squarespace
- GoDaddy vs. Squarespace
- Weebly vs. Squarespace
- Shopify vs. Squarespace
- Etsy vs. Squarespace
Choose Big Cartel if: You’re an individual or small-scale seller who wants a dedicated eCommerce platform. Big Cartel focuses on creative artists who sell handmade or vintage products. It’s an affordable option for users with a low budget and the software comes with decent customization options, automatic SEO, and built-in marketing options.