Squarespace vs. Rapidweaver

Hi all,

I used to use Rapidweaver some years ago, but stopped using it as database driven websites became the norm. A lot has changed since I last used it, but since the app is available as part of Setapp, I installed it and started playing around again.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it seems to be incredibly difficult to build the kinds of sites (Bootstrap/large Hero images, layout blocks, calls to action, etc.) in Rapidweaver without purchasing Stacks and Foundation/Foundry first. Because I’m trying to kick the tires, having to purchase these frameworks/add-ons before trying them out is cost-prohibitive for me. For example, if I bought Stacks and Foundry together, I’d have to spend $210 Canadian just to see what is possible. Yes, videos are available, but hands-on learning works better for me. Yet, I can (somewhat) easily build these kinds of sites out of the box with Squarespace, and spend a lot less money upfront, to boot.

I promise I’m not trolling with this question, so I hope someone can answer it honestly. What are the benefits of using Rapidweaver over a platform like Squarespace? If you’ve chosen between the two options, can you tell me why/why not?

I appreciate any responses. Thanks for reading.


This is a great question. I need to upgrade my version of RW but was resigned to wait until Ver. 9.x.

I am just not sure for most sites much more than something like square space is needed…

I am curious what others are thinking.

Hi Cecily, I do not use SquareSpace, so cannot give you a comparative benefit response. I can understand it gets more difficult to decide which way to go as the web gets more complex and prices go up for frameworks and plugins.
The Stacks plugin $60 is a must if you want to freely design your site. Beyond that, look at Source which is free, comes with 7 stacks I think, that will accomplish a lot. There are also some tutorials to get you going. You don’t need to launch $100 directly into Foundation or Foundry. But it depends on your site needs.
I got into RW way back and just stuck with it. I like the freedom of it and this forum which is full of support, inspirational ideas. My site (built with Source and BWD stacks) is my business, so the initial costs and time needed are well compensated.


One thing that comes to mind is that you are stuck with Squarespace as a hoster and can not select your own hosting service. For legal changes like the GDPR and Cookies - especially in Germany - you have to rely on Sqaurespace to implement the changes. This could be a challenge if these changes do not come fast enough or are not altered to match e. g. the german legal requirements.


For me, at least, this is nothing whatsoever to do with Squarespace; this is about the long term lack of innovative development taking place within the core Rapidweaver product.

I’ve been using Rapidweaver since early versions of V5. At the time I was struggling financially, but realised I could make a little bit of cash by making and selling websites to people within my network. It came down to two products - Rapidweaver or Sandvox. I chose Rapidweaver for two reasons: [1] Although I had not seen or used it yet I had heard of this thing called Stacks that made everything easier and [2] The community around RW seemed much better.

Shortly after buying RW I thought I had made a terrible mistake. The base product is horrendous as soon as you try to do anything approaching ‘professional’ with it. In no time at all I was dropping hundreds of £ on Stacks, stacks and themes. Back then FreeStack Responsive was the name of the free-form design game and it, along with Stacks got me to where I hoped to be.

I really feel for new users coming to Rapidweaver, perhaps with the intention I had back then, and hitting that creativity/design ‘wall’ and realising that Rapidweaver itself is just a box to put Stacks and third party products inside. The built in themes are very limited, the built in page types are ghastly to work with; I don’t think I have ever built a single ‘styled text’ page. Even the basic html page type is devoid of simple intellisense or syntax checking - and this is at V8.xx

I am honestly of the view that RMS came to the conclusion that the Stacks plugin and the community of developers will continue to push sales of Rapidweaver and have henceforth been dripping out inconsequential, but meaningful-sounding features to the base product in order to justify another $79 update every now and again. Even attempts to integrate simple things like code syntax colouring in the code container has been done on the cheap with no theming (anyone for dark blue on black in their editor?). Unsplash integration… Project backups over FTP to the host…support for ‘dark mode’… right, all good and well but what about real innovation in the design space? Tools for layouts, theme builders? Or even… send me to the Gulag for saying it … embrace the Stacks way of doing things and collaborate fully with @I to bring a RW ‘Stacks Edition’ to the market. Develop and DOCUMENT the API’s that are available to stimulate developers to materialise their ideas inside your ‘box’.

Rapidweaver is at risk of turning into a joke product unless the innovation - in the right places - starts to land. More and more users, are trying to break out of the paid updates loop by turning to things like Blocs, PineGrow … even Divi and Elementor. Look at Divi for example… one fee per year and all updates are free (there are plenty of them too!), build pretty much anything and access to thousands of professionally designed elements. Rapidweaver on the other hand costs more and the base product does not have one tenth of the capability or empowerment for the new user.

The Stacks workflow, however IS really good. Make it part of the base product, ship a blank theme with it and stop pretending that the legacy RW product/page types have anything to offer in 2020. Then you will be enabling your customers and setting the developer community up for success.


Most of the websites you see being built with SquareSpace and similar platforms can be built with RapidWeaver too.

There are many free and paid RapidWeaver themes out there. Not all are listed on the RapidWeaver Community Addons website, so it’s worthwhile doing your own web searches carefully, to find the others available. Chances are you can normally find a theme that does most of what you want. Or does something differently and better, to what you initially had in mind.

There are other solutions too, like the blank frameworks that work with Stacks. And theme frameworks that let you import templates from sites like https://bootstrapmade.com/ and https://startbootstrap.com/, and then edit the code / content in RapidWeaver to suit.

Another build option with RapidWeaver that’s worked well in the past for some is to have a custom theme developed exclusively for you, which you can then use as a “boilerplate” to build multiple client websites with. This option could include bespoke tutoring / mentoring too.

So you can begin to see that with RapidWeaver, you have a whole “sliding scale” of possible options, ranging in price, speed and complexity. Something for everyone!

@Fuellemann also raises a very good point. When you are shackled into one of these subscription / cloud based platforms, you have to play by their rules. Where RapidWeaver has succeeded is its ability to quickly adapt to new trends, challenges and regulatory changes that have been forced upon website owners. On multiple occasions, RapidWeaver developers have been able to provide solutions for even the most difficult things (like GDPR compliance) within a matter of days, rather than years.

I have used SquareSpace and for the most part it is quite a good platform - if you want a half-decent looking website in 15 minutes. But for anything more advanced, you’ll quickly start running into its oddball quirks and its limitations. For hobbyists it’s probably okay, but for anything more serious, there are much better platforms and apps out there.


Hi, Cecily,

I agree with all of the above. To summarize most important points:

  • RW on its own (without Stacks) is worthless. It is a throwback to the year 2000. Stacks is the only reason to use RW. I have been telling this since my first experience with RW around version 5.5.
  • Source is a great free framework for a freehand design.
  • In many cases, purchased themes are all that you will need for decent sites.
  • With the abundance of stacks, you get a rapid response to new web technologies and a freedom of choice, as opposed to confines of Squarespace.

Nicely articulated, I stopped updating because I saw no value in it. I might upgrade to Ver 9.0 if there any truly meaningful additions. But as it is now, I am looking at alternatives to RW…

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I have my own hosting and intend to keep it, but for the types of sites I hope to build for (possible) clients, this is less of a concern. These customers don’t have the time or interest in learning about server maintenance, having access to the shell, or even GDPR and cookies. They’re (very) small business owners that want to focus on their services/products, but who also want to grow a business. I want to be able to remove some of the friction from their lives, and I think Squarespace (or even Rapidweaver) would allow me to do that.

Still, I want to thank you for your thoughtful reply.

Wow, this exactly what I was afraid of @indridcold. You’ve highlighted a lot of the concerns that have come up for me as I started to dig deeper into what Rapidweaver could – and couldn’t – do out of the box. I appreciate that you took the time to provide such a detailed answer. Thank you very much!


I would not be so dismissive of GDPR. Privacy is an important issue in Europe and one day may be taken seriously in America.

When Adobe still supported Muse there was this guy named Steve Harris that created an aftermarket product called MuseThemes. MuseThemes added a lot of functionality to Muse and Mr. Harris was an incredible teacher. I decided to follow him to his new platform called WOCODE.

I came to learn that WOCODE was built on an engine called DUDA. When I researched the fine print in a DUDa user agreement I came to learn that everything I posted on a DUDA built site was now the intellectual property of DUDA and they could sell the copyright for anything I created to whoever they wanted to. When I reached out to DUDA for clarification of what they meant by this their recommendation was that I ask MY lawyer what he thinks they meant. I asked the question twice and got the same answer both times.

Deep inside the user agreement they gave me the ability to park a cookie on whoever’s computer came to visit me. The objective, of course, was for DUDA to be able to learn everything they could about everybody they could so they could maybe figure out how to monetize the data.

That just seemed slippery to me.
You should always read the fine print.


Most RapidWeaver sites are hosted on commercial web hosting companies. Most are on a managed VPS or a shared hosting plan, so the RW users don’t need to know anything about “server maintenance”, “accessing the shell” or any of that kind of stuff.

As for GDPR, that’s a big concern to your customers if they are in Europe, and the U.S.; it’s coming state by state. If you do business in Califonia, you need to be concerned with California’s New Privacy Law: It’s Almost GDPR in the US.

I believe Squarespace is a monthly subscription starting at $12 a month and going up from there. Those subscriptions include hosting. You are definitely in a shared hosting environment.

Most RapidWeaver users use shared hosting plans that cost as little as $3 a month. You can choose the best hosting company for the site based on things like geography, budget, and support.

Since you have RW and have started “playing around” with it, it might be more advantageous to ask more specific questions rather than post such a general post.


I’m not dismissive. I just know the kinds of businesses I’m targeting. They are very local, and tend to only do business within Canada, where GDPR isn’t a concern. It’s frustrating to me that people are jumping to the conclusion that I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I haven’t done the market research required to come to this conclusion.

My post was “general” (as you say) because I wanted to collect a broad range of opinions and experiences. I didn’t realize that there was a barometer my question would be measured against. :roll_eyes:

I know very well what Squarespace offers and what is required of its users. I have spoken to several friends who are running very successful design/development businesses that cater the Squarespace platform, and none of them have expressed any concerns with Squarespace’s reliability, uptime, scalability, or extensibility. Those issues (and GDPR) weren’t even the focus of my post. My “general” question was about the kinds of sites I could build on Squarespace vs. the kinds of sites I could build with Rapidweaver + several prohibitively expensive plugins to get similar functionality.

Thanks for the link to your site, it’s quite lovely!

If you know what you are talking about than don’t ask such general questions.

For almost every RapidWeaver addon it’s a one time cost. You can produce as many sites as you want.

Will RapidWeaver out of the box with no add-ons produce “as good” as Squarespace? You have RapidWeaver, (part of setapp) you have or know Squarespace, you probably can tell us(RapidWeaver forum members).

Yes, Rapidweaver can produce a responsive site without addons.

Yes, you can produce unlimited websites with Rapidweaver without paying additional charges.

Yes, you can greatly enhance RapidWeaver with the 3rd party Stacks plugin

Yes, you greatly enhance the Stacks plugin by both free and purchased additional stacks from 3rd parties. Most purchases are a one time cost (not per domain).

You said in your OP your not trolling, but you’re asking on a RapidWeaver Forum a very general question like “Squarespace vs RapidWeaver”, that seems like trolling.

Have you gone to the Squarespace Forum and asked about RapidWeaver vs Squarespace?


@skeskali Cecily,

Your question is not so easy to answer. I’ll make a modest attempt to do so.

First, it partly has to do with personality type. Some folks love coloring by numbers, others like a blank piece of paper. I know I’m simplifying but if you are more of a color-by-numbers person then I would probably suggest staying with Squarespace. It was developed for just this scenario. Over the years it’s added more colors, but bottom line it’s template driven. Very template driven.

Fifteen or ten years ago the same was true of RapidWeaver. Over the years two very interesting developments have taken place that have radically changed what, and more important, how you work with RW. The first change was the development of Stacks. Without stacks you are still in color-by-numbers land. And at that point I’d agree that Squarespace may be the better option. … but Stacks opened up a lot of fluidity in design.

… but then the second shoe dropped. This happened about 5 years ago (I might be a bit wrong on timeline here): the emergence of frameworks. Essentially RW is theme-driven. Frameworks revolutionized things by essentially letting your create your own “theme”. There are now several frameworks out there. There are all very good, but work in different ways. I use Foundry and love it. Others use Foundation and love it. And there’s UIKit, Platform and a few others. However … for a beginner I would suggest using Source. It’s free. There’s a “Super Source” that only costs $25, but the regular Source lets you learn about frameworks in general.

Put differently, Stacks gave you a lot more crayons to use. Frameworks removed the lines or grids from the page so all you had was a blank space to start with. For some this is frightening. For me it’s very relaxing and enjoyable. The bonus is now you can pretty much create any look you want.

The same thing has happened in the WordPress world. Originally it was just for blogs. Then it added standalone pages. But the whole thing was driven by templates. Then about 5 years ago “page builders” (i.e. frameworks) started emerging. And over the last 5 years those page builders have gotten a lot better. In working with my students I have them use Elementor (free) plus Elementor Pro (paid, $50). It’s a great combo and gives you a lot of freedom.

I prefer to use RW and Foundry. But the bigger issue is how much do you enjoy starting with a blank page? How much freedom do you want? And how efficient do you want to be down the road?

… so efficiency is the third key element. With both RW + Stacks + framework of choice I can easily use elements from one website in another. I don’t have to start from scratch. Since I create course websites this is a big freakin deal. I of course do change things from course to course in terms of look and design: but I don’t need to completely start from scratch if I don’t want to. Okay, this sounds a bit like coloring by numbers but the templates I’m using are ones that I created in the past, not something someone else provides me with. It’s a big difference.

As for cost. That’s up to you but if you are trying to make a business out of website development then the issue isn’t really what is cheapest but what will allow you to be both very efficient yet very creative.

There are other factors involved as well, but hopefully this helps a wee bit.


The OP seemed pretty genuine to me, also the question is actually very good and struck me as being entirely relevant and quite incisive: what can RW do ‘out of the box’ or with plugins and how would that compare to Squarespace? It’s a great question!

OP knows about Squarespace. Lets imagine for a moment that the OP did go to the SS forum and search around for comparisons or discussion pertaining to RapidWeaver, did you try that? I did and got zero hits; not one. Whereas on this forum there were 38 and some of them recent. I know where I would have asked the question if I were in the OPs position looking for some genuine insight.

On a brighter note you are in pole position to win the award for most disingenuous comment of 2020 with “Yes, Rapidweaver can produce a responsive site without addons.” You can also hunt cougars with a sharp stick… but you’re not going to have a fun time.

Hmmmm, that’s actually quite a tempting challenge. :sunglasses:


So, just for fun. A site built just using what ‘comes in the box’ in 35 minutes, 'cause it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend and I’ve got nothing better to do. I’m sure others could do much better as well.

Oh, and Alice is available for consulting gigs! :sunglasses:

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