It’s week two of my website basics series. This week we are talking about platforms for your website and how to choose which one is right for you!! Let’s get to it!
So MANY PLATFORMS… and how to choose…
When I first started in the online world I had Blogger blog. I thought I was the “bee’s knees” I could choose a theme and write till my heart’s content. It was like 5 posts in that I realized that I wanted this whole web presence to be a thing for me and I was going to need more than Blogger offered in features. I then graduated to a WordPress.com site. It was a step up it offered a lot of features without being overwhelming for me, but then before long I needed, even more, features and I made my final transition to a self-hosted custom coded WordPress website.
So the whole point of that story was to say…it’s a journey. Whatever path you take to get to what resources you need is perfectly fine. And while one platform is perfect for you now it may not be in the future for a host of reasons. And wherever you are if it is working for you then that is exactly where you need to be.
Content Management Systems
So all these services fall under the category of Content Management Systems or CMS. They allow you to manage the content on your website without digging into the code. Some of them let you see under the hood and tinker around while others make everything clickable or drag and drop and keep you from accessing the code.
But what do you need and why are there so many WordPresses?
Let’s start with WordPress.com
WordPress.com is hosted on WordPresses servers. They control the code and only have hundreds of templates that you can choose from for free and upgrade your account as you grow to get more control over your site. They take care of everything other than the content for you. You can pay a small monthly fee to get a custom domain name from them or use a yourname.wordpress.com domain for free.
This platform is great for beginners who aren’t afraid to dig in and try stuff. You aren’t going to mess anything up, the system will warn you before hand.
What make’s WordPress.org different?
WordPress.org is self-hosted. You get complete control over every bit of your site and what themes you can add. If you wanted to venture into the code, for whatever reason, you could. You would need to get hosting and a domain name set up.
Now WordPress has come a long way since it’s early days when it got the reputation for being difficult to work with. At that point, you did have to know some code in order to make your website your own. But now there are so many themes/plugins available that you don’t even have to know any code to have a WordPress website. One of the great things about the WordPress platform is that it is open source.
Open source means that the code is free and available for independent developers to make plugins and themes without having a fee they have to pay. This means that often developers create a plugin(Plugins are add-ons that extend the features of your website without having to write code) that extends the functionality of WordPress and then put it out for you to use for free. WordPress has a huge library of free plugins and themes that will get you up and running without coding…unless you want to which is another story.
And what about Squarespace?
Squarespace is very similar to WordPress.com they take care of everything, you can choose a template to customize inside the admin panel. You will not need separate hosting for a Squarespace website becuase they host the files for you on their servers. The biggest difference is that Squarespace doesn’t have as large a library of plugins as the WordPress community. This keeps the choices involved with setting up a Squarespace site minimal and will not overwhelm you with all the choices.
If you need to tweak the design slightly Squarespace does offer the ability to add custom styling through CSS. You are limited in having access to the source code and cannot make major changes to your site. This is fine for most websites but if you dream of having a website that offers something a little different you might run into problems making it happen.
Keep in mind…
Read the terms of service with any platform that is hosting your site for you and be aware of what they do with your content and your account. Just because you are paying for a site with a platform does not mean that you own your website, you may just own your content. Be very careful when reading through the Terms of Service of a platform.
How do you decide??
Think about how important the flexibility of your site is to you. What tools are important to you as you grow your business? Is the platform going to fill your needs on all the important parts to you?
There are pros and cons to each platform and if you google WordPress vs. Squarespace you are going to find a lot of arguments on each side.
WordPress is much more flexible in terms of growth than Squarespace, despite its slight learning curve. If you are absolute beginner Squarespace will get you up and running quickly. You need to keep mind that each of these platforms has their place along your entrepreneurial journey. Your needs will change as you grow your online business and you find you need more or less flexibility with your site.
And the in the world of technology things are changing daily. Website building services are constantly updating their code with new features and usability adjustments.