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I participate in a lot of Facebook groups…probably too many. And the one thing that I see commonly asked more than anything else is
“Should I have my website on Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, or WordPress?”
Almost everyone answers these threads with the platform they themselves are using, or designers chime in with the platform they like designing in the most. I see the question so often, I once crafted a response, saved it in Notes, and I just copy and paste it when I come across one of those threads. (My husband calls me lazy; I call me “efficient”).
Those answers are never clear enough. Platforms are confusing, and I understand why. Everyone goes with what their friends are using, or what looks easiest, without considering longevity, cost, or what it means for their content. The platforms all promise to provide you with the same thing: an address and a place to easily put your stuff. But not all of them promise you long-term solutions for protecting your content should things go awry.
Think of your website as a place to live.
Wix, Weebly, & SquareSpace are all like renting an apartment (server space) and buying your furniture (building your content). What I mean by this is, you need a “home” to store your “content” and in this case, your content is all the things that make your home uniquely you. Websites like Wix or Weebly or Squarespace are all great in the beginning because you now have a place to live and have friends over (traffic). It’s an easy solution to a problem.
But let’s say you decide you want to move to a BIGGER and BETTER home. Only you discover you aren’t allowed to take your furniture (aka your site content) with you, because – surprise! – these sites are proprietary and don’t allow you to back up your own content to your computer and take it elsewhere. Even though you bought the furniture and spent time assembling it, it belongs to the owner of the apartment now, not you. Which means, wherever you go, you will have to buy all new furniture and put it together again.
Now, you may have no plans to ever leave it, and that’s just dandy. But someday you might want/be forced to. Maybe a newer, bigger, cheaper apartment comes along. Maybe the whole thing folds and goes out of business or has to declare bankruptcy. Maybe they decide you, a boudoir or – better yet – birth photographer, are too risqué for their platform and kick you out of your home (and they can do that, because you’re only renting from them, remember?). (Also they can do that because of SESTA-FOSTA.)
Self-hosted WordPress (which is buying a domain name and hosting with a host like GoDaddy, Bluehost, Siteground, etc, and then installing the WordPress platform onto your server space, which is actually really easy) is also like renting an apartment and buying your furniture, but the difference is you actually own your furniture/content. If you decide to leave because you have loud neighbors or the plumbing is janky, or – god forbid – it has rats, you get to take your furniture with you, because you assembled it and it’s yours, and the owner of that apartment knows it and he’s not a jerk trying to make you live somewhere you don’t wanna.
And sure, they could feasibly look at your content and not like it and ask you to go elsewhere or shut you down, but that pretty much never happens unless your content is illegal. Plus, even if it happens, you’re a good little business owner, backing your content up and stuff, so it wouldn’t matter if it did. (Back your stuff up!!).
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
Let’s start this part off with differentiating WordPress.org from WordPress.com, because that is confusing all by itself and I don’t want you to think I’m talking about using WordPress.com the blogging platform. Wordpress.org is a CMS (Content Management System) aimed at managing your content database. WordPress.com is a blogging platform, that also conveniently allows you to buy a domain name for $17/year (!!! that’s expensive, don’t do it!) just to say you have one. It’s an extremely limited, watered down version of WordPress.org.
- WordPress.org requires you to pay for your own server host and domain name, independent of the WordPress brand, and also requires you to install WordPress on your little slice of server space
- WordPress.org allows plugin installations for fun things like Woo Commerce, SEO optimization, Google Analytics, Security, etc
- WordPress.org has tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of themes available (some free, some premium), to make your website uniquely yours
- WordPress.org is so highly customizable that if you can dream it, it can pretty much be done (with the right knowledge and coding, of course – but don’t let that scare you)
- WordPress.org offers the ability to back your shit up with plugins, or by simply downloading your database. (Your host probably will, too.) Mine backs up to dropbox once a week.
So what do you get with WordPress.com then?
- A blogging platform
- An overpriced domain name if you choose to buy one through Automattic (the people who own WordPress)
- A couple of plugins (okay, it’s 25 or so, but they aren’t awesome plugins and you can’t add any from the WordPress.org directory or other custom plugins)
- Limited themes
Why you should choose WordPress.org (and your own host)
Say it with me: FREEEEEDOOOOOOM!
It’s also cheaper. I pay Siteground $5/month (I paid for 3 years up front) to host my site. I get email, WHOIS domain protection (get it, otherwise, you’ll get all kinds of spam in the form of text, email, and phone calls), and 20gb of server space. Which is a LOT. I paid $200 for my ProPhoto 7 theme, but I customized it myself – on TWO sites! But you don’t have to get that theme; there are a ton of great free ones, as well as less expensive premium themes out there.
So let’s look at the numbers comparatively:
|Self-Hosted WordPress.org||$60 (not the minimum price)|
|SquareSpace||$216 minimum for businesses|
|Wix||$120 minimum for businesses|
|Weebly||$96 minimum for businesses|
|ShowIt5 (with blogging)||$288 minimum for businesses|
I don’t know about you, but that small number at the top looks pretty damn good to me. And I get my own domain? Sold.
You should always choose WordPress over platforms like Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and Showit5. Simply for the ownership of your content, but also for your wallet. We all like money, let’s not fool ourselves. And with the amount you save using WordPress over the other four options, you can use that to pay a kick-ass web designer to make it uniquely yours.
I call that a win, don’t you?
This post has been updated on 11/13/2018.