You may have noticed I haven’t posted too much lately. Some of it is because of my current health sitch and the other is because I’m knees-deep in learning about WordPress, plugins, importing, exporting, designing a new logo etc. It’s all pretty mushy up here when it comes to my brain at the moment. It’s just sloshing around new terms, new formats, new everything and I’m trying to catch up.
I’ve switched from Squarespace (where I hosted my blog since my redesign last year) and launched this newly, designed Life On Cass Lane.
I’ve had some people ask me how to start a blog or to give them some advice so I thought I’d start off by talking about where you’re going to create your blog—by choosing the best blogging platform for you.
Blogging is a lot of hard work. I’m not going to lie.
You have to brainstorm ideas for posts, research them with keywords to help your SEO, plan, write and edit the posts, take photos for the post, promote the posts through various social media platforms, and so much more. It is a JOB that I’ve wondered if I should continue doing or not. Read more about that here.
But I enjoy writing so much, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
So, here are some tips based on my experience using these three platforms—Blogger, Squarespace, and WordPress.
When I started blogging I was clueless. I had no idea where go start a blog, or what to do. In fact, I think I had my first blog on WordPress many years ago… it was called “On the Road” with Cass & Klay or something.
I documented our 17-day trek from Alaska through Canada and down the West Coast to Vegas, the Grand Canyon and finally Texas—our home state. But once the trip ended, so did my blog.
I started to blog again after becoming a first-time mommy and this time I went with Blogger.
Initially, I was unimpressed with Blogger’s interface. It’s not visually appealing like Squarespace and WordPress are. That may sound dumb to some of you, but that’s what most bloggers are looking at when they are writing, editing, adding in media, or publishing a post.
Blogger is the way to go if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and you really want to see if you can commit to the world of blogging; because it’s a huge commitment.
It’s definitely great for beginning bloggers, but it works for bloggers at really any stage of their blogging career.
- It’s completely FREE w/ a sub-domain aka blogspot.com address or you can purchase a domain for under $10 at Go Daddy, Blue Host, etc.
- Easy to navigate, write, edit, add media to posts.
- There are many designs, designers, and templates you can purchase on Etsy or even search for on Pinterest to give your blog the look you want.
- There is really no help or support, except for Googling your questions. There aren’t people to call if you’re having issues with your site and need help fixing it.
- Designing your own blog is pretty much impossible if you don’t know CSS or HTML in Blogger.
- If you have someone design your blog, you need the designer to make changes to the site if you choose to add a page or want something to look different (and most of the time this cost extra money). But if you are a DIY-er, you can research your issue and try trial and error until you fix it. I don’t recommend doing it yourself because you can really mess your site up and YOU will be the one spending hours trying to fix it.
- Honestly the commenting system, I wasn’t a fan of. I think Disqus is better (and you can install it).
- There are limitations on pictures and space.
- They can shut down your blog at any time.
So here’s the deal with Squarespace… it’s pricey. It’s great for people who have businesses, physical products to sell, and for people like musicians, artists, restaurants, etc. Even though they have templates just for blogging purposes (but not many), they weren’t templates I loved aesthetically. I’d love the look of another site, but I’d have to integrate my blog into that site, instead of it catering to the presets of a “normal” blog page.
Although I liked the easiness of Squarespace, you are much more limited to what you can manipulate your site to do or look like. Squarespace has beautiful, simple, and modern templates to choose from and “customize” to fit your blog/brand.
While I was able to make some changes to how everything looked (colors, photos, style, etc.), I wasn’t able to get the exact look I was going for unless I wanted to pay thousands of dollars to have a professional design it for me using custom CSS.
My contract was coming up and so I need to make a decision. I’d moved from Blogger to Squarespace last year, but I really didn’t want to go back to Blogger. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and it’s free, but if you want to mess with the design of it, it’s best to let an expert handle that or purchase a template or have one custom built for you; and I know nothing about CSS and very little about HTML. So, I chose Squarespace last year and this is what I learned.
- Squarespace has some incredible templates, already designed, and they are easy to alter and change to get what you want.
- Its drag and drop features make it easy to design pages, add content, code, forms, etc. It’s really easy to learn. You have more control over your entire website and don’t have to have the knowledge of CSS or HTML.
- Squarespace has a pretty great support team. They will help via phone or chat and I’ve used them on multiple occasions and have been very pleased with their response time. They also have great video tutorials.
- Squarespace includes hosting (which means you don’t have to pay extra for web hosting like you do in WordPress and use Go Daddy, Blue Host or Site Ground). You can also get your domain through them, which is great because you can manage all of that under one account instead of having multiple accounts with different companies.
- It’s pricey. I think I paid $230 dollars for a year of service and it came with an email address (@lifeoncasslane.com). Even though it’s pricey, if you want to be able to adjust your site the way you want, this is the best option.
- I love the interface as far as the design aspect goes because it’s very easy to understand and learn. However, I really didn’t enjoy the blogging interface. I often got frustrated with the way things would look when I’d publish a post and it would always mess up somehow, which was frustrating.
- There isn’t a main blog page. This was the main reason for my switch to WordPress. When you go to a blog you want to see some blog posts with excerpts to get an idea if you want to read what the blogger is writing about or what they tend to post about, But on Squarespace, you have a ‘home’ page and you have to click to read the blog, which can deter readers from your site.
- If you want a custom theme, it gets really expensive. You can spend thousands of dollars on a custom site. If you’re a big business, that may be worth it, but if you’re starting out blogging, it’s not. They have beautiful designs to choose from, but certain templates have specific features, so you may find a template you like but it doesn’t have the feature you want. This I found frustrating too. But you can go to their support site, type in the template name and see what features it offers.
First things first, there is a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Click here to learn more. I learned this the hard way. I thought the .com was the way to go and I paid for that. Like 100 bucks. And then I quickly discovered that I needed to be on the .org site because that’s where more of the freedom to do what you want with your site is—and it’s mainly for bloggers and small businesses. So I got my money refunded, but I was very frustrated I’d already made a mistake and I was just signing up for WordPress. Learn more about the differences here.
I’d notice in searching to try to redesign my Squarespace site that there are much more Wordpress templates that you can purchase than on Squarespace. The prices range from about $20 and up, depending on what you want or whose design you’re looking at. You can also have someone custom build one for your site, but that takes time and more money…
I knew what I wanted my site to look like and I knew the only way I was going to achieve that was through WordPress. It’s really where all the bloggers are at, and because of that, there are so many plugins and offers that work with WordPress specifically.
- There are plugins for just about everything. This makes working on your site easier and it helps you make changes fairly easily and quickly.
- Support is available via WP Help but you do have to pay for this feature. But I’ve heard great things about their service.
- All of your content is yours. You own it. It’s YOUR site.
- Supports custom themes, which are free and there are some you can pay for.
- Offers more SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugins to increase your site search results presence online and help drive more traffic to your blog.
- WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), which means you have to pay for hosting, support, etc.) I use BlueHost, but there are many other hosts to choose from. I chose Bluehost because it was cheap and WordPress and Bluehost are kind of like partners, so they integrate together making installation of WP and hosting pretty easy. Bluehost also has great support.
- It’s much more difficult to learn. Squarespace is definitely the easiest to learn and use, and looks more professional on the backend of the site, but Blogger is pretty straightforward too, just not as pretty.
- It can get expensive. There are many costs that you may inquire as you blog that you need (like support, hosting, domains, backup, storage, security, etc.)
- You do have to keep a close eye on your site to make sure everything is running smoothly. Because it’s CMS, there are lots of things that can go wrong. I’ve only been messing with WordPress for a week and I’ve already screwed a few things up.
Honestly, I think all these platforms are pretty great. It really depends on how you think you will use it. Want to start a blog? Click here to purchase hosting with Bluehost and get a discount!
Which blogging platform do you use or recommend?