Thanks to some great questions I’ve been getting over on Instagram, I’ve decided to do a series on Blogging basics… and as we continue, I think we’ll cover the not-so-basics too. Today, we’re starting at the very beginning. How do you choose what website-builder you should use for your blog?
I understand why this can be such a daunting choice. The last thing anyone wants to do is choose a platform, invest a bunch of time and energy into it, and then realize they hate it.
So first, there are some questions to consider before you start trying to decide.
*Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, if you click to them and make a purchase, I will make a small commission.*
Questions you need to ask before choosing a blogging platform:
- What is the purpose of your website? Are you going to be actively posting blog content here? Or is it more of a landing page, a static website–a place other than social media, where others can find you on the internet? Is it a place to showcase your portfolio of creative work? Is it a place to sell goods and services?
- What are your blogging/website goals? Are you wanting to create something that is scalable in the future? Are you wanting to hit top rankings on Google?Maybe eventually monetize by running ads? Affiliate links? Selling your own products or services?
- How much do you wish to customize? Do you want the ability to hypothetically do ANYTHING YOU WANT on your website? Whether that’s cool functions, visual designs, layouts, etc. Or are you happy using a template and sticking to it?
- How much coding do you want to learn? Do you want something out of the box, where you don’t even have the capacity to touch the back end data? Or do you want to be able to mess around with HTML, CSS, etc.? (Note, Google is your best friend, and some basic codes are easy to tweak)
- How much support do you want? Do you want to be able to have a help-desk at your disposal? Or are you comfortable leaning on Google, or stumbling through it on your own?
So now, let’s get to it…
What are the options for website-builders?
When it comes to a website-building platform, there are three main options to choose from: WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. Please note the below information is based solely on my research, and that I am a long-time WordPress user (my bias is obvious throughout this post).
I’m biased, but if you are looking to scale your blog as you grow, and the ability customize more than you can even imagine, choose WordPress as your blogging platform. Future you will be so grateful.
Note, when I talk about WordPress, I’m talking about the self-hosted version (WordPress.org), where you have so much control, not WordPress.com. (More info on WordPress .ORG vs WordPress.COM below)
- Endless customization. Whether we are talking just about the aesthetic, or about actual functions, anything that could possibly be done on a website, can be done on WordPress. It just takes time, coding, or a great plug-in.
- More monetization options. This is directly related to the above. But because you can add all sorts of codes to WordPress, you can keep up with all sorts of digital ads and monetization programs and integrations.
- As simple (or as complicated) as you want to make it. Depending on what you envision for your blog, you can use a theme as is, and get straight to blogging, or spend hours customizing and adding features to make your site feel uniquely yours. If you don’t want to learn too much coding, you can also lean on plug-ins to do the heavy lifting. For example, there are a lot of visual-builder plug-ins you can install to make your layout “drag and drop”.
- You own your site. All the data that goes into your site, what makes your site what it is, is yours. You can download your website, back it up, change hosts, whatever you want at anytime.
- The best option for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Because you can get into the nitty gritty of your data, you can do a lot of deep customizations that help benefit your rankings for SEO.
- Can be overwhelming. Right out the box, WordPress as a website-builder may seem a bit complicated. Personally, I just think it has a learning curve (like everything does). But there are endless tutorials out there to guide you through. It’s also easy to get distracted by the unlimited potential. My advice? Have a relatively clear vision for your site, and work towards it. Don’t get distracted by all the different tools and funky plug-ins. (Also, having too many unnecessary add-ons can actually slow down your site).
- Can take longer to set up. Some of the other platforms are so simple to set up, that you basically choose your theme and call it a day. A few things go into getting your WordPress site off the ground, the first is getting hosting set up, installing WordPress on it (which is actually pretty fast), and then if you’re like me… the hours… or days you’ll spend customizing and tweaking everything until it’s perfect in your eyes for launch.
- Requires a bit of back-end knowledge, but it’s easy enough that Google or even the right Plug-in can help you out. I personally have been slowly increasing my knowledge as I go. At first, I thought I was real fancy learning colour codes and how to implement them across my website. Now I can trial and error my way around CSS and a little bit of HTML. (If that’s gibberish, that’s okay. You can get there).
- No support. Okay, you won’t really be left in the dust, but But WordPress.org itself doesn’t have an official support centre. There’s no hotline you can call, or chatbox on-hand to help you in a pinch. But as I mentioned above, there are a lot of tutorials out there, and because WordPress is so highly used, you can often just ask a question on a forum and get a response really fast. Or if it really came down to it, you could pay someone to assist you.
Both a pro and con, depending on what you want:
This information is pretty critical, and is usually the make or break for people.
WordPress is a self-hosted website-builder, which means you need a server to host it. (Technically, if you were savvy enough, you could do this yourself, but most people just pay monthly for hosting).
Personally I consider this a pro, as it is the reason you have all of the above customization options, and the reason you “own” your own website. But if you are not into doing too much yourself, or don’t want to spend the cash, this will be a con for you.
When it comes to choosing a web hosting provider, I use BlueHost.
Some of the benefits of BlueHost are:
- Most basic plan runs at $3.96 USD (or $5.30 CAD) a month
- 1-click WordPress install (So some of that launch time I mentioned earlier is cut down drastically)
- Fantastic 24/7 customer support (I’ve lost count of the times I’ve leaned on them).
- Free domain for first year
Note on WordPress.COM vs WordPress.ORG:
If you want a blog just to share your thoughts, and you don’t want flexibility, or the ability to monetize, you can set up a blog through WordPress.com, but your options are limited and I do not recommend it.
To further understand the difference between WordPress .com and .org, read here.
And I’m speaking from experience here. I first set this blog up through wordpress.com because the most basic version is FREE. But I lasted less than a month before switching it all over.
Squarespace is a website-building platform known for having absolutely beautiful themes. If you want a website for the aesthetic, and don’t want to customize too much, this is for you.
It is great for people who are looking for more of a landing page, a place people can come and find out more about you. It is very popular with creatives looking to showcase their work. The layouts work wonderfully for artists and photographers (who are also unlikely to want to monetize their website through digital ads).
- Beautiful templates. As mentioned above, this is what Squarespace is known for. Although there aren’t that many to choose from, at least they look fantastic!
- Pretty easy to use. In my research I discovered conflicting information on this one. But apparently, back in the day, Squarespace was hard to use, and not that intuitive. They’ve since revamped their platform, and it is much easier to work with.
- E-commerce & Marketing Features. If you are looking to sell a product or a service, Squarespace comes equipped with features to help you do so.
- Support via live chat (Monday – Fridays) and email (24/7). If you want someone on hand to be able to trouble shoot, or even walk you through the platform, Squarespace make it relatively easy to get in touch.
- Limited customization. Although you have great templates to choose from, there are few choices, and the actual customization is very limited. Not ideal if you want the freedom to do absolutely whatever you want, or if you want to get into the back-end with some basic coding.
- Limit to “special coding”. Because there is a limit to what you can do in terms of back-end coding and tags, there is a limit to the different digital ad integrations you can run. Which may make it difficult to monetize your site.
- Not ideal for SEO. Again, due to a lack of deep customization, you can’t edit the real deep juicy stuff needed in order to rank competitively on Google. The meta-data for individual pages is auto-generated, and not editable.
- Your site isn’t yours. Your site lives on Squarespace. You can not download it, back it up, or duplicate it. (If you want to change to a different website builder, you can download the “content” (i.e. images, blog posts), but it’s raw data. The look and setup of your website won’t come with you.
Wix is for you if you value ease-of-use and simplicity above all else.
You may look to it if you are more so just looking for a place to blog, or for a corner of the internet to call your own. Monetizing, and customizing your website to match your ‘brand’ isn’t a focus.
- Easy, and intuitive to use. If you are looking for simplicity above all else, Wix is what you’re looking for. Has a very simple drag and drop design.
- Quick set up. If you wanted to carve out your own corner of the internet right this very instant, Wix is your fastest bet. In less than 10 minutes you could be completely set up.
- Has a free plan. Wix is a good bet if you absolutely do not want to spend any cash. There is a very basic free version available, but if you are wanting to connect your own domain, you would need to sign up for a plan (which is still relatively affordable).
Wix Cons :
- Once you hit “Publish” your chosen theme is your theme until the end of time. If you want to change your template, you need to create a new site.
- Lacking in SEO as well. Wix was not originally known for great SEO. But, this is something they say they have fixed, and in fact, they now advertise their SEO capabilities on their website. Personally I’m still a bit wary. A Wix site is unlikely to rank high against a WordPress site on Google.
- Again, no special coding. Like Squarespace, your integration options are very limited.
- You can’t take your site with you when you go. Once you leave Wix, you can not take your site with you. You will need to start from scratch. It is not ideal to get started here if you one day hope to grow and scale up your blog.
Final thoughts on choosing the right website-builder:
I think it’s pretty clear that if you are looking to make your website a power-house, capable of doing anything your heart desires, you’ll want to get started on WordPress. That being said, each platform does have its benefits, so let’s take a look:
Choose Wix for Lowest Cost & Ease of Use
I would recommend it if you are blogging in its purest definition. Sharing your stories & experience. You aren’t necessarily trying to create and grow “a brand”, nor are you trying too monetize.
Someone may also choose Wix if their priority is simply have a corner of the internet that is “theirs”. This may be someone with no interest in creating consistent content there, but is doing their due-diligence by having a website.
Choose Squarespace for Simple & Beautiful Design
You want something clean with a nice aesthetic. A place that looks professional with minimal effort on your part. It’s a place where people can find you, read more about you, and even pay for whatever services you offer.
Choose WordPress for Scalability & Customization
Perfect for anyone who wants total control. You want the potential to customize everything, and you want your website to be able to grow and adapt as you do.
So which platform is for you? What has your experience been with any of the above? Let us know in the comments!
Find more Bloggging 101 Posts here:
- 15 Things You Need For a Successful Blog Launch
- How much does it cost to start-up and maintain a blog?
- How much time does it take to run a blog?
More Blogging Resources to check out:
- 17 Diverse Stock Photo Sites You Need to Know About
- Drive Traffic to your Blog with Tailwind and Pinterest
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