I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit manic when it comes to digital tools like task managers and blogging platforms. Even when I find something that works, I have trouble staying committed.
Last year when I moved to WordPress, I felt like I was finally settling down. I had previously tried out the beta of Squarespace 6, I had already spent some time on Squarespace 5, before that I had tried self-hosting WordPress a few times, as well as WordPress.com, Posterous, Typepad, and I’ve been using Tumblr on the side for a few years.
So I think that I have a unique perspective on this topic, and after typing out that list of services that I’ve used, one could argue that I need extensive therepy.
So why did I move back to Squarespace again? The long and short of it is that while WordPress is the absolute master of blogging flexibility, I found that with great flexibility comes great responsibility.
- Squarespace is faster than self-hosting—Here’s the deal: hosting is only as cheap as it is slow. I’ve hosted WordPress on Bluehost and on Dreamhost and I didn’t find either of them to be reliable enough at the base price. And while the front end was noticably slow, the backend was *painfully* slow. It was like the world was moving in bullet time while the dashboard watched in disbelief at the blur of the mouse and keyboard. Squarespace is much faster.
- Hosting is a hassle—Do you like working with Mysql databases? Do you like navigating terrible UX at hosting companies? FTP? Do you like having your website crash because you suddenly get a surge in traffic? What about companies that aren’t but so concerned with the end user if their services go down? If you do like those things, you should self-host. If you don’t like those things, you’ll like working with Squarespace.
- Squarespace does caching for you—This is where my relationship with self-hosting really began breaking down. If you self-host WordPress, you are going to be responsbile for making sure that your website is caching correctly to avoid being even slower and potentially taking down the entire Internet. There are plugins that do this. They are super complicated. Squarespace does all of that for you, and if you’re anything like me, you have no business doing that kind of thing for yourself.
- Squarespace SEO is better than mine—When I noticed that my old Squarespace blog was still out-ranking my WordPress install in Google after being dormant for over a year, I started installing and configuring more plugins that I didn’t really understand. That lead me to believe that I probably wasn’t the best man for the job, and would be in better hands in any hands but my own.
- WordPress Plugins create flexibility, but also can cause trouble—There are billions of plugins for WordPress, which is where it’s flexibility comes from. But are you using the right plugins? Are the plugins that you use breaking things? I’m pretty sure that I had a plugin break my code in a way that wasn’t fixed by the traditional solution of turning them all off to figure out which one is the problem.It was giving me some kind of parsing error that made me think that the dwarves dug too deep and awakened a terrible evil that went a lot further than just Google+ sharing problems.
- WordPress invites noodling—If there’s one thing that I’m good at, it’s burning hours by noodling with software. There’s so much flexilibity that I found myself constantly figuring out new ways to tweak things and break things. Sometimes it was necessary. Sometimes it wasn’t. Squarespace is fairly restrictive with what you can do, which hopefully will translate to less noodling around and more writing.
- WordPress is vulnerable to hacking—When looking for help with the parsing error mentioned above, I started to come across article after article about how easy it is for WordPress to be hacked and exploited. Not that anyone would find much benefit from hacking my website, but it left me feeling a little exposed and if I did get hacked I’d be completely helpless. Like a baby in the woods.
- Squarespace offers the comfort of a paid service—I never would’ve considered using a paid service to be a positive. Then Yahoo bought Flickr and ruined it, Twitter bought Posterous and closed it, Tumblr heads towards an ad supported business model, and Google pulled the plug on Reader, I’m running out of trust for free services. Especially when it comes to my home base on the Internet. Eventually the adults move in and the bright eyed idealism that made the free service great is beaten out of it. I’m pretty sure that Squarespace has been profitable every year since they launched, and they’ve done that through subscription revenue. That means that I’m the customer, not Google or advertisers or shareholders.
- Squarespace is more fun to use—After working with the clunky, bloated WordPress backend for a year, it’s nice to work in something that is a bit more fluid more pleasing to use, and ultimately just beautiful to look at. It’s also a true CMS, you can build almost any kind of website out of it in addition to having a blog.
- Squarespace just looks great—The templates offered are so well designed that they make most WordPress themes feel a bit amateurish. It certainly blows the doors off of Typepad when it comes to design…no contest. Though sometimes the high design nature of their templates can feel overly serious. I’ve found that putting a ridiculous picture of yourself in the header takes care of that.
Is Squarespace 6 perfect? Dear God, no it is not. It can be a bit of an adventure as the software still seems like a work in progress. Sometimes when trying to compose a post I’m not sure if I’m using a blogging platform or participating in some sort of glitch art experiment. Also, compared to WordPress, it can feel rigid like a frozen corpse (though as I search around it seems like the right code can make it more flexible).
I am super bummed out that I can’t use Blogsy or Marsedit with it as they haven’t released an API, which was honestly within an inch of being a deal breaker for me. I still get a little anxious about it because I love working in Blogsy, and Squarespace’s iOS apps are consistantly raked through the coals in reviews. I haven’t used them much yet, but the company says that they are being completely rewritten.
But their design aesthetic, lightning fast support and customer driven revenue model lead me to believe that it’s only going to keep getting better and better (if they want to stay in business).
Also, there’s just something enjoyable about it. I can’t quite place my finger on it. My brain says no, but my gut says yes. I can’t explain it.
So for now, I’ll be sticking it out with Squarespace 6. Who knows where I’ll be at this time next year, but I’m really hopeful that this will work out for the long haul.