Choosing a blog or other website publishing platform is a decision taken too lightly by far too many people. Your blog platform, or content management system (CMS), can greatly influence the size of your audience, the effort it takes to publish new content, and - if applicable - the amount of money you make online. This week, I invited Wordpress expert and Internet marketing entrepreneur Andy Brudtkuhl to engage in a conversation that compares Squarespace.com and Wordpress.org as blogging platforms/web publishing softwares.
I'll concede that the choice of blogging software is not an easy one. Wordpress is the perennial favorite. Squarespace.com(affiliate link) is touted by tech names like Leo Laporte and the guys at Diggnation. Both products have devout users that swear by their respective web publishing tool. And these are just two of many options. It can be hard to get a clear perspective on the pro's and con's of each.
Big Picture Web Marketing is a Squarespace website (See my updated Squarespace review here). Andy Brudtkhul, again, is a Wordpress consultant/pro/ninja. We both agree that there is no single best option and that the right blog or website publishing platform comes down to the one that best meets your goals, abilities, time lines, budgets, etc. We've put together this brief comparison based on Andy's experience with Wordpress and my experience as a Squarespace developer to help you make an informed decision on what's best for you:
- Squarespace - Squarespace services include both web design tools and hosting. Basic packages start at $8/month. To host your site on your own domain, accounts start at $14/month. Coupon codes can save you around 10%. Squarespace provides an excellent value for their slightly higher monthly price tag.
- Wordpress - Free-ish - WordPress is completely 100% GPL open source however you still need to pay for hosting and domain name. The price ranges from ~$3/mo (GoDaddy) to $100/mo (Rackspace)
Search Engine Friendliness
- Squarespace - Squarespace is largely SEO-friendly. It's built on valid XHTML code. You have control of your page titles, alt tags, article links, etc. And while most of the important elements are covered, I'll admit Squarespace's proprietary system does fumble with SEO in a few minor areas. For example, you can't create custom page titles for some of the system-generated content (i.e., tags and categories). But overall, Squarespace will suit all but the most hardcore SEOs.
- Wordpress - Designed with SEO in mind. Everything from semantic XHTML markup to optimized URL's to on page elements and meta information is optimized for search. There are also themes and plugins that can help you along the way. There are even some plugins with built in keyword research tools that help you write better for SEO. It's easily the most optimized solution I have ever used out of the box.
- Squarespace - Being a completely hosted system means Squarespace is not prone to the same security holes as open source systems like Wordpress and Drupal. I'll never have to pay someone to cleanse my hacked blog because I bought my domain on GoDaddy. My site is just plain safe. And with revenues estimates on the rise for Squarespace, the platform is likely to invest even more into its already solid architecture
- Wordpress - You need to maintain your own updates and be careful with plugins. Also - a good host helps. Remember in hosting - you get what you pay for. We prefer to host at Rackspace - but you can still have problems if you don't keep your site updated to the latest version and security fixes.
- Squarespace - Squarespace may not have all the bells and whistles of Wordpress plugins, but they aim to be the best at what they do with the plugins they have. For example, the new Squarespace Twitter widgets download and store your tweets on their servers, so your site will never slow to a crawl when loading because Twitter is down. (And website load time is important.) Plus, Squarespace is compatible with all widgets on the web. The combined effect provides nearly all the extra features one could want in a blog.
- Wordpress - The reason WordPress has grown so popular is it's ability to scale functionality through custom themes and plugins. Themes and plugins can provide unlimited functionality through a "Actions & Filters" API that WordPress provides. This is huge because it allows you to extend WordPress without changing any core WordPress code - allowing for new functionality while maintaining easy management and upgrades. Because of this API and the open source code platform - the WordPress development environment has grown and now there are hundreds of thousands of plugins and themes available.
- Squarespace - Squarespace starts off with a selection over 60 professionally designed templates. Then, you can customize nearly every element of the interface using their WYSIWYG editor - no knowledge of CSS is needed. It's ridiculously easy to have a completely custom and unique look. And for hardcore designers, Squarespace does allow for full CSS control. I picked Squarespace in part because I didn't want "just another Wordpress Thesis blog."
- Wordpress - The common misconception (alluded to by Josh) with WordPress is all sites look like blogs. While this is true in many cases - it doesn't have to be since you have full control over your design. The theme market place is growing and dozens of free and premium WordPress themes are released on a daily basis. Themes like Thesis allow tons of design control from a WYSIWYG editor and if you really want it to look unique you can customize it to do so.
- Squarespace - The usability of the Squarespace editor is outstanding. Creating stunning galleries, exceptional blogs and web pages that convert is easy. Getting used to their primary controls,including the Content, Structure and Visual "editing layers," requires minimal ramp-up. Squarespace also provides an extensive collection of how-to's, videos and forums available on their site. Building a site with Squarespace takes a shockingly short amount of time. You can even post to your blog from your iPhone, iPad and (soon) Android device (Perhaps the Windows mobile platform in the future, too).
- Wordpress - Another reason for WordPress' rise in popularity is the ease of use factor. It's easy to setup, customize, and start producing content. Any average web user could setup a new site and be blogging within 10 minutes. There is a thriving online community with blogs, videos, pictures, howtos, podcasts and more on how to use, manage, customize, and publish in WordPress.
- Squarespace - You get the web publishing software and hosting with Squarespace. And not just any hosting. Squarespace uses grid hosting, which distributes your website traffic evenly across an entire networks. If you get on Digg, your site won't go down. If you get on CNN, your site won't go down. It's some heavy duty hosting. Plus, you can quickly transfer blog archives from other platforms with Squarespace's blog importer.
- Wordpress - In hosting, you get what you pay for. If you choose to host your site for $3/mo at GoDaddy don't expect to get great support or the fastest server out there. However you can scale at your own needs. Four years ago we were hosting WordPress at GoDaddy and by now we are hosting on the super duper fast Rackspace Cloud. It's not cheap - but it's fast, secure, and reliable.
Support and Maintenance
- Squarespace - Squarespace boasts a 99.98% uptime. And because there is no Squarespace free plan (i.e, no forced advertising), they only have to support paying customers. It's their jobs to make you happy. End of discussion. Their email ticketing system is amazingly fast. Their service level is 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Submit a ticket, get a coffee, come back and get your response. And you'll never have to worry about upgrading your blog with the endless patches and upgrades of an open source platform. Squarespace takes care of all of that.
- Wordpress - WordPress support and maintenance is DIY... If you are uncomfortable with technology than you should have a WordPress guru (or me... wink, wink) in your contacts for those times when you need them. However WordPress does make upgrades and maintenance EXTREMELY easy through it's administration interface. It is imperative that you keep it updated (I mean c'mon it takes 1 click of a button) to avoid any security issues that may be fixed.
Ultimately, both Squarespace and Wordpress are great web publishing tools and can most likely meet the needs of most businesses' blogs' or websites' marketing strategies. Andy and I hope this post has given you the perspective you need to make your choice based on your own personal goals, skills and resources.
Are you in the process of starting a blog? What questions do you have about Squarespace or Wordpress? If you've already selected your platform, what has your experience been like so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and we'll be sure to reply.