Choosing the best blogging platform is a critical first step for new bloggers. It's important to choose a tool that matches your goals and your abilities. For many (including Big Picture Web), Squarespace is an excellent publishing choice because it provides a comprehensive, best-practice blogging platform that's easy to use right out of the box. But as the middle weight content management system (CMS) class continues to grow, will Squarespace see its success continue or will some missed opportunities and some fierce new competition see a new industry sweetheart emerge?
First off, what do I mean by "middle weight" CMS? I'm defining this class loosely as a tier of blogging platforms that is between full-on CMS solutions like Wordpress and templated CMS solutions like Ning and these other simple CMS. Squarespace is a mid-weight favorite because there are no extra modules to download or configure and yet it's easy to create a customized, beautiful site in the eyes of your visitors, search engines and social media networks.
Big Picture Web has been powered by Squarespace for several months now. And while my review of Squarespace has been largely positive, I will acknowledge that nothing is ever perfect. For example, Squarespace's blog commenting system sorely lacks any reply or email notification capabilities that would enable visitors to engage more fully with the Big Picture Web community, key functionality that's critical to the blog's "stickiness" factor. (Disclaimer: I'm in no way connected to Squarespace other than being a mostly happy customer of theirs.)
While Squarespace has been good about releasing smaller updates to fix obvious flaws (e.g., SEO-friendly 301 redirects came out back in December), their ravenous community is beginning to point out the platform's faults and cry out for the next major upgrade. Nearly all of the 12 comments on Squarespace's most recent blog post involve some sort of speculation and/or dismay about the blogging platform's next big step forward. And Squarespace's response? Nothing. Not a single employee comment on their blog in response to the conversation. And in a day and age where ignoring your community can be a death knell for any company, does this mean the mid-weight CMS market may just be ripe for the picking?
If they're not careful, Squarespace could see a dip in sales or even worse, a mass exodus of its core fan base. Where would they go? Tech giant Google recently announced a major upgrade to Blogger's design interface (some of it even oddly resembles Squarespace's interface). I'm sure Google would gladly take on any Squarespace defectors. And if that weren't enough, anticipation of Drupal Gardens continues to mount as its beta efforts gain steam. I have to imagine Gardens' free custom domain package will somehow cut into Squarespace's market. Bottom, line, blog platform creators would be wise to realize that the competition for this market is about to get a lot more fierce.
Whether its Squarespace vs. Drupal Gardens or Squarespace vs. Blogger, the best blogging platform will be the one that enables bloggers to grow their blogs easily and share the most with their communities. That said, what do you think is lacking the most from blogging platforms today? What new features would make you try Drupal Gardens or Google's Blogger? If you're a Squarespacer, what features would compel you to switch? Or should everyone just learn how to use Wordpress? Leave a comment below to help us create a list of important missing blog platform features for blog platform creators that are willing to listen.