Monday, November 21st 2016 Business
I wrote a post quite awhile ago about why I don’t and will never recommend Squarespace and the whole thing came down to the fact that Squarespace prevents businesses from growing past a certain point and that their Terms of Service seems to protect them, and not so much (at all) their users.
I’ve been asked a lot since then that if I don’t recommend Squarespace, why do I recommend WordPress? What makes one better than the other? And in my honest opinion? A whole damn lot.
This post contains affiliate links, and by clicking on them and purchasing through that link I will earn a small referral fee. These links will always be identified with an asterisk (*). Additionally, any affiliate links I ever include will be from companies that I’ve used and dealt with personally and recommend.
I want to be frank – I know WordPress. I’ve been using WordPress since around 6 months after it launched, which at the writing of this post is over 12 years. It would be a disservice and a lie if I didn’t mention that one of the big reasons I recommend it is because I’ve used it for so long and am incredibly familiar with it. It’s easier for me to do some of the things listed in this article because of that – I’m well aware of it.
WordPress has a learning curve – something I’ve never denied. But despite that, I also believe that it’s the best option for any business because it’s never going to limit you. If you either have time or money (and if you have a business then you have at least one of those things), then you can grow your site and business into anything you could ever want, and while there’s a learning curve, there are a lot of good reasons why the “easy” option isn’t always the best.
Freedom of Self-Hosting
- If the service I’m receiving starts to slip or not live up to reasonable expectations, I can find another company, and move to their services with little to no issues.
- A combination of self-hosting and open-source means that I have access to all of my core site files, which means I can literally change absolutely anything to do with my site. Don’t like the color scheme of my dashboard? I can change it. Want to completely brand my dashboard so it looks like something custom made for guest bloggers + staff. I can.
Unlike Squarespace, Wix, Blogger, or WordPress.com, WordPress.org is a self-hosted platform. Which means you’re responsible for researching and choosing the place to host your website. To some people, this might seem like a chore, but to me, it gives me the opportunity to go with a company that I’ve researched, dealt with, and trust.
What this means, in the long run, is if the quality of my host starts to slip or they implement changes I don’t like, I can move my entire site to another host with little to no problem at all. This prevents me from being stuck with one service provider and being forced to deal with shitty service if it starts to decline.
For instance, I have personally been hosted by Dreamhost* for the last eight years, and they’ve been so good to me that it would take a lot for me to move to another host.
However, if something did happen, because I’m with WordPress, and I’m self-hosted I can just pick up and move, without being stranded or struggling to find a whole new platform to use. I would probably end up with SiteGround* or Flywheel* – both of which I’ve done research on, they come highly recommended from other people I trust, I’ve heard little to no negatives about either of them, I’ve had to deal with customer service on the behalf of clients, which was excellent – and they both offer free transfers. Which means literally all you have to do is sign up.
The point being, I’m not trapped, I have options. You don’t have those options with hosted sites like Blogger or Squarespace, you get what they give you, and you have to deal with it. If they make changes you’re not happy with or implement something you don’t like or the quality of their services start to slip… you’re kind of stuck with them unless you want to reinvest in a whole new platform.
Additionally, if I want a shop on WordPress, I can have one for free. The two biggest shop providers for WordPress (Easy Digital Downloads + WooCommerce) offer their base platform with absolutely no charge at all. You have to pay for things like being able to use an extended version of Paypal to keep clients on your site, but ~$50/year is a lot different than $26-40/month.
Customization + Open-Source
- I can make my site look any way I want it to. Any design, any setup. I can have one page look completely different than another, I can have as many sales pages, with as many different designs as I want without paying anything extra.
- My site can function exactly how I need it to, at any time. I can have it be an informational site, or I can have it be a full website with a blog, or a full website with a blog, and a shop, or just a shop. I have no constraints on what I can make my site do other than what I’m willing to learn and the time I’m willing to put into it.
- My price never changes. No matter what I need to do with my site, WordPress is never going to cost me a penny. I might invest in plugins, or better hosting – but those things are mostly by choice, they’re not things or payments I’m required to make just to have a shop or an extra sales page.
By far, when speaking about popular options out there, WordPress offers you more customization than any other platform and anyone who tells you differently is either highly misinformed or flat out lying to you. It not only offers better visual customization but also offers more in the way of how your site functions.
Since WordPress is open-source you don’t just have a small team of people working on it, to make it better, or to expand it. You literally have thousands of people that contribute to WordPress every year. People creating pre-made themes*, plugins, and people who write post after post about helpful ways to solve issues on your site – all of them without earning a penny in return (most blogs have advertisements nowadays but for WordPress those rarely rely on the content they’re providing). So you know it’s not a bias that they have because of some affiliate system, it’s because they genuinely like the product.
Since other platforms aren’t open-source, much like with hosting, you get what they give you, and you basically just have to deal with it.
There is very little you can do with Squarespace in comparison to WordPress. A lot of people have the opinion that this isn’t true, because they’ve been able to do a lot with their own sites. Typically people usually have this argument, though, because their version of customization is extended just to the lengths of what they need for their particular site at that specific moment. As a professional in the field, however, there are a lot of things I have to consider and keep in mind outside of the scope of a basic blog and what it needs. Even a blog that has things like a freebies library, or a mailing list opt-in, are still a basic idea of a site, and aren’t that hard to do.
With WordPress, because it’s open-source, you can access every single piece of code that makes it function. Which means the sky is literally the limit – there isn’t anything you can’t do with WordPress if you 1) pay someone to do it for you or 2) teach yourself to do it. With hosted platforms like Squarespace and Blogger though, there are literally things you can’t do, at all, because they’re closed-source. You simply do not have the access to the files you need to make them happen. But because WordPress is open-source there are endless free opportunities to learn how to create on it out there. You’re not tied or forced to learn WordPress through an overly expensive e-course or something of that sort, there are literally entire sites out there dedicated to teaching you how to use it, and how to customize it, for free.
- I personally feel that if you own and run a business that you should be aware of how it runs, and how to fix it if something goes wrong, rather than waiting on someone to do it for you. The equivalent of this, to me, is knowing how to shut off the water if you run a restaurant. If you have to wait for someone to show up to do it for you every minute it takes them to get there increases the likelihood of you missing out on business and the higher chance the damage will cost you more. Know how to do it yourself? You save yourself a hell of a lot time, and a hell of a lot money.
- I personally enjoy knowing how my site (and thus a major part of my business) runs and being able to change that at will is really important to me.
A lot of people use maintenance as the excuse as to why they don’t want to use or deal with WordPress. They don’t want to have to keep up with the plugins and updates, and things of that sort, but to me personally, learning about these things is the equivalent of having to learn to do accounting, or filing my taxes. It’s something that I need to be knowledgeable of in order to properly run my business.
In the end, to me, being forced to learn these things and how to deal with them gives me a better idea of how my site functions. In doing that I know what my site ultimately can and cannot do and when I want it to do something new, I have a better idea of how to accomplish that. Also, like a lot of things in my life, personally, I hate having to sit around waiting for someone to tell me how to fix something that’s broken or not functioning correctly, I’d rather just be able to fix it myself.
This is really simple, and goes back to WordPress being open-source, and hosted platforms being closed-source. If the founder of WordPress decided today that he was done, he no longer wanted to work on WP and no one else wanted to pick up in his place? WordPress itself would still exist, because it’s a platform anyone can download and build on. As long as you have the files for it, you could still use it, even if it was discontinued. I could continue using my site just as it is right now with absolutely no consequences, and because it’s open-source that means that anyone could pick it up and continue on with it without having to have permission or buy it from it’s creators.
If Google decided to shut down Blogger, or Anthony Casalena decided to shut down Squarespace – anyone on those platforms would be screwed. Assuming they didn’t shut down the site, you’d be left with a closed-source project that would never get updated again. Which means if there was a serious bug found or someone figured out how to hack it, there would be no one to fix it for you. Eventually, the technology and the pieces of code holding it together would grow outdated and little by little it would fall apart. If they did decide to shut down the actual sites, then you’d have nothing. It’s more likely that Squarespace would be sold, but even still, what if you don’t like the direction the new owner takes?
With WordPress, this isn’t an issue. You can continue to use the main platform because it’s something that exists and functions on its own and because of the community built around it, it belongs (literally) to all of it’s users in more ways that it belongs to any one creator.
A lot of people like to tout that Squarespace is more secure than WordPress, and in a way it is. Since it’s closed-source not everyone has access to the back-end, so bugs and things like that aren’t more readily known, and because it’s closed-source brute force attacks are also less likely.
I’ve seen the idea being passed around that Squarespace just simply can’t be hacked, but just because you don’t know about security issues, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Source code is written by humans, thousands of incredibly smart people contribute to WordPress and it still has issues – because humans are flawed. They make mistakes, and code doesn’t prevent that. Nothing is bullet proof. And if there are thousands of people working on WordPress and it still has issues, how many issues do you think a company with only 580 employees and no outside help has?
It’s really easy to have a WordPress site that’s just as secure as Squarespace if you stay up-to-date, and you research your plugins before you install them. It’s really that easy. Most WordPress hacks come from bad plugins, which means WordPress isn’t at fault, the user is. Furthermore keeping WordPress and your plugins up-to-date now involves pushing a button.
This is in the same vein as security. If you pay attention to what you’re uploading to your site, and you’re only using themes that are well and properly coded, then your site can be just as fast as any Squarespace site.
If you’re using coding hacked together by someone more focused on quantity than quality, using plugins that take 1,075 lines of code to do the job 30 lines can do, or uploading 15MB photos to your site, then you’re adding bulk to your site that’s going to slow it down no matter what platform your using. Being aware and conscious of what you’re adding to your site is the difference between one that loads in under 2 seconds, and one that takes 2 minutes.
WordPress is organic. Every title WordPress has earned, and every user it’s had, is because it’s damn good at its job. It’s not because it’s the newest easy tech on the market. It’s not because it’s got fancy graphics or an advertising spot on Spotify. WordPress is as popular as it is because it’s useful. Because people trust it – and they have for years.
WordPress simply does not do advertising, and it never has. You won’t hear an ad spot for it on the radio, or on Spotify, or in between commercials of your Gilmore Girls binge on Hulu – because it doesn’t need ads. Everything WordPress has is based solely on it’s credentials, word of mouth, and personal referrals.
Blogger is popular because it’s one of the first blogging platforms ever and it’s free and always has been. For the life of me I could not tell you why Wix or Weebly are things that people actively use – they’re generally really bad all the way around.
Squarespace has spent over $40 million dollars on advertising. Squarespace has actually been around almost as long as WordPress, but it wasn’t until it got nearly $40 million in funding in 2010 that anyone really started hearing about them. Additionally, it took another $40 million in 2014 for Squarespace to be a name that people readily knew. Something WordPress has been accomplishing for nearly 14 years.
It might seem impressive to see that they’ve earned nearly $80 million in funding, but all I see, personally, is a platform that couldn’t make it on their own.
When it comes down to it, WordPress, to me, is the better platform because it allows me to grow endlessly. It has never put restraints on me, my business, or what I want to do. If anything, WordPress has encouraged me and promoted a sense of discovery and learning in me that has actually given me my career.
While that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, for me, I know, that if I put myself in a box, all I’m going to see are the walls – and I’d rather see the sky.