WordPress, Squarespace, Blogger — there are so many options for starting your website. As a WordPress developer, I’m admittedly biased on the subject. But after more than 5 years on WordPress, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ve moved a number of clients from Blogger, Squarespace, and Typepad, and while they naturally all expressed initial worry before making the move, they all couldn’t be happier with their websites after.
In this post, I’ll share with you why you should choose WordPress for your website with stories from my clients, why I can’t recommend any other platform, and address some concerns most people have with WordPress.
1. You want flexibility.
The number one thing I love about WordPress is its ability to grow as you do. I started my site as a simple blog, with no idea what I wanted to do with it. Once I started getting inquiries for graphic design work, I created a portfolio section and services page on my blog, and even displayed my latest work in the sidebar, which updated automatically as I added projects to my portfolio. When my business grew, I moved my blog to a secondary page with the click of a button and created a home page to put my business front and center — and the only URL that changed was my blog.
“We were thrilled with the results of our switch from Blogger to WordPress. The backend of our site is much more professional and complex, while still being straight-forward and user friendly. As the face of the blogsosphere continues to change and update, WordPress allows its users to quickly adapt and mature along with it.”
Julie and Lauren, Born & Bread
2. You want options.
Plugins and specialized themes open up a world of possibilities for your site and can help you create a truly unique experience. Do you have 5 years worth of archives and don’t want a giant list running down your sidebar? There’s a plugin for that. Do you want a pin-it hover on your images? There’s a plugin for that, too.
“I made the switch from Blogger to WordPress a year and a half ago and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for my blog. With Blogger, you are stuck with rather limited capabilities, and it can be hard to make your blog + brand stand out from the rest of the sites out there. Basically, if you can imagine it, you can do it with WordPress. A slideshow, a fixed nav bar, category pages with thumbnails… etc. You can make your blog feel more like a website than another blog. Also, there are plugins that make things you’d have to manually code in blogger super easy.”
Grace, Stripes & Sequins
3. You want full control.
Yes, I’ve heard some horror stories of people completely losing their WordPress sites to hackers or unreliable hosts. But as long as you are running regular backups, you can restore your site just how it was — on your own terms. With Blogger, however, if your account gets deleted for some reason (and I’ve seen it happen), you’re at the mercy of Google to restore your site.
Furthermore, you can customize the backend of WordPress almost as much as your site itself. Plugins like Black Studio TinyMCE Widget make sidebar updates just as easy as creating a post or page, and a good developer can set up complex functionality in such a way that you can still make updates yourself. You can even use the Screen Options tab in the upper right corner to remove any functionality you don’t use from your dashboard, post editor, and other areas of the backend.
“I wanted to switch to WordPress from Blogger, because after much research I found that WordPress could offer me much more than blogger. I am able to have my entire website, that is more than just a blog, completely customized and I can update myself or with minimal help from my web designer. WordPress just offers so much more than blogger. I would never go back.”
Meg, Meg Biram
Why I can’t recommend anything but WordPress
Over the years, I’ve seen platforms come and go, gain and lose popularity, and, most concerning, engage in some questionable business practices. I’ve seen sites erased with no explanation or recourse, and I’ve seen businesses come to a halt when their sites go down and there’s nothing they can do.
WordPress is open-source, meaning that you have access to every single file on your website. That means that no matter what happens with WordPress in the future, you’ll still have the files you need to run your website.
Furthermore, WordPress is a community project, built and maintained by hundreds of volunteers. This makes it highly unlikely that it will ever disappear. This also means that the people working on WordPress actually use it themselves and are personally invested in its improvement.
With other platforms, you’re at the mercy of their bottom line. If you don’t like something they’re doing, or they shut down without notice, you’re stuck rebuilding your site from scratch on another platform. With WordPress, if you don’t like the service you’re getting from your webhost, you can pack up your files and take them elsewhere, and your site will look exactly the same.
To clarify, we’re talking about WordPress.org, which is self-hosted. WordPress.com is owned and maintained by Automattic and is similar to Blogger and Squarespace in that they host the files for you and charge you for upgrades.
Addressing a few concerns with WordPress
The biggest problem people seem to have with self-hosted WordPress is the cost, so let’s break it down, shall we? You can get started with shared hosting on Bluehost for about $5 per month (sometimes even lower when they run sales), which comes to about $60 for the first year. Add a domain name for $10, and splurge a little on privacy protection for another $10 so you don’t get junk mail from domain registration companies, and you’re at about $80. Let’s be honest: you probably spent more than that in your last trip to J.Crew.
Put another way: if you decided to take up knitting as a hobby, you’re looking at $10-$20 for a how-to book, $5-$10 for your first set of knitting needles, and $5-$10 for yarn for your first project. On the high end, you’re halfway to the cost of getting started on WordPress — and the WordPress costs are for one full year. You’ll be buying more knitting needles and yarn for your next project. Granted, after your promotional pricing is up for hosting, you’re probably looking at $100-$120 per year plus domain and privacy renewals for a total of $120-$140 per year. However, in the grand scheme of things, $80 is not a lot to get started, and a year is more than enough time to see if you want to continue your website.
Also, I think putting money into your website gives you more motivation to make it work. There were plenty of times in my first year that I told myself I should really post something to my blog because I’d already paid $80 to do it.
Like I said, there are plenty of horror stories out there about security issues. But you know what? You can use a plugin like BackUpWordPress to run regular backups of your site automatically. With Blogger, you have to remember to do it yourself. Yes, it’s totally possible that your site will get hacked, or your files get corrupted somehow. But if you take a few minutes to set up automatic backups to Dropbox, you can sleep soundly knowing you can always move your files if something were to happen, or you can find someone out of the huge number of people who work with WordPress to help you.
Also, ask around before choosing a web host. No host is perfect, but some will have more complaints than others — even popular options. You can save yourself a lot of headache by choosing a reputable web host. If you’re really concerned about security issues, there are several premium WordPress hosts that run site backups, regular maintenance, and monitor for malware for you, like Flywheel (affiliate link), who hosts this site!
3. Ease of use
It’s true that many of the things WordPress can do require the help of a developer. You can create a cool post archives page to browse by thumbnails — but probably not unless you know how to code. But honestly, you would need a developer to do those things in Blogger as well, and a lot of functionality just isn’t possible there to begin with. The great thing about WordPress is that so many people love it and use it, so you will never be short on recommendations for easy to use themes and plugins, and people are constantly developing even more new themes and plugins and writing new tips and tricks.
Overall, WordPress does come with a little more responsibility, but in exchange for that, you have options and full control over your site to make it truly unique and serve your needs, and the reassurance that all of your site files are yours for as long as you need them.
P.S. If you want to get started with WordPress, check out my ebook Make WordPress Work. It’s full of my best advice for getting started and making WordPress Work for you!